This month’s featured poet is: Robert Hayes
Robert S. Hayes is a member of the Canadian Federation of Poets
member and Edcuation Director for the CFP.
I belonged to Canadian Authors Association Manitoba
Branch, and was Acting President. I also had membership in
the Manitoba Writer’s Guild. I went to many writer’s conferences and gained
a great deal from many professional writers. It was at one of the writer’s
conferences in Winnipeg, that I met my third (and, as she says, “My final”)
wife. We have a lovely nine-year old daughter.
“The Tree of Life,
Shepherdia Canadensia, perhaps…
It entwines you;
Its branches seek the air;
Breath from lungs outside itself
Forming woody bronchia
Overseeing fields of life:
Vast canvases as far as the I can see;
And witness only, anticipated prospects
of human potential;
To listen to the sound only the prairies
Mixtures of winds, dust, fly away seed
This is the first part of a poem from a
collection of poems called “Prairies Songs”. They come from my fascination with
the prairies, having moved here some years ago from London England, where I was
My earliest recollection is climbing
through shells of bombed out homes, and the smell of the decaying absence of
life. My father was a sailor, my mother, a factory worker. My brother and I
watched London go by outside of the local pub Friday nights, while mum and dad
found their nirvana and fellowship with other imbibers. Our staple for the
evening was a bottle of Tizer and bags of crisps with a little blue bag of salt
as we waited outside. Sometimes, the fish monger stall appeared under the gas
light, then dad or mum would stagger out to buy us a bag full of whelks, or
jellied eels or piping hot chestnuts.
I had a very difficult time learning and
dealing with school. As a child, I never saw the point of going to school just
to be bullied by teachers and harassed by other kids. The fight for self-
preservation came in retreat and seclusion. In my isolation, a teacher
recognized a talent in me to draw and paint. Soon, I began to feel better about
going to school to venture into the figures, landscapes and expressions of my
own invention. When we moved out of London, things changed in many ways.
School became more meaningful. I loved the team playing aspect, and when
opportunity came to play basketball, soccer, cricket and rugby, I was in there
like the proverbial “dirty shirt”. But, I was a loner at heart, and when it
came to athletics, I chose discus throwing and became school champion.
After Secondary School I wandered from
job to job and managed to get a position as a “general dog’s body” at a local
brewery. There I met a maintenance engineer, who kind of took me under his
wing, pointed me in the direction to starting an apprenticeship. It was a
five-year stint, which, at that time, seemed an eternity. I was so green, I
think I was emerald. During that five-years I went to school for six-months out
of each year, and worked in different departments the rest of the time. I
graduated with honours in mathematics and engineering.
But it was not until I immigrated that I
found, to my angst, that I liked writing. I fell into a teaching career in
mathematics and science at a Winnipeg College. During that time, I wrote text
books on mathematics, got published, but always had a drive from my heart to
write poetry and short stories. I was published in the now defunct Winnipeg
Tribune, went back to England and married my college sweetheart. I took her
back to my life in Winnipeg, which turned out to be a disastrous move. Three
years after our daughter was born, the marriage was annulled and they went back
to England. I wrote a lot in those trying times. College life and writing
scripted into an extraordinary life of learning and studying. I met my second
wife – a teacher and we had a daughter. Life was good. So, I decided to go out
and save the world. I started by organizing a group to form a home for eight
mentally challenged adults. I was up to my armpits with committee meetings,
government funding efforts, house designs and city ordnances. These, along with
family life, teaching, and taking courses took their toll. The results were
swift and painful. My second marriage collapsed, with devastating repercussions
for all concerned.
The initial committee for the group home
dwindled to two people. It was then we had a miraculous breakthrough, got the
home; got the clients and got the home up and running with the help of many
believers in the cause. Personal misfortune, however, left me empty and plagued
with migraines. I left the group home volunteer business after ten years of
playing the white knight. I bled for some time, bandaging the wounds with prose
and poetry. I would limp onto pages with my soul hanging out. Eventually I
began to realize that diehards are enlisted in Canada’s Worst Idol Program, and
stemmed the blood tide with tourniquets of creativity.
I am a grandfather with
five beautiful grandchildren. My life is being resolved on a daily basis.
I am steadied by my wife who is a writer, artist and resourceful homemaker.
My daughter loves to write and paint. My transformation is not complete,
but the startling thing is I am work in progress.