John Haynes Obituary

21 December 2021 - 10:38am

John Haynes Obituary

21 December 2021 - 10:38am

We are very sorry to have the news of the passing of John Haynes, a lovely person and a fine poet. John lived a various and active life and published a number of equally various books, on teaching, language theory, African poetry, stories for African children and two extraordinary volumes of poetry. He was for many years a lecturer in Nigeria, where he founded the literary journal, Saiwa, returning to the UK in the eighties.

Seren was honoured to publish two book length poems by John, both embodying technical brilliance with all the richness of life meeting poetry that could be wished for. You (2010) is his hymn to his wife Afiniki, a celebration of, and meditation on, personal love, and how that love transmits into community and the wider world.

You was preceded by Letter to Patience (2006), which ranges between England, to which Haynes had returned, and northern Nigeria where Patience, a former politics lecturer forced out of university by junta pressure, ran a bar called Patience’s Parlour. Part autobiographical, part essay on post-colonialism, the poem is an epic portrayal of a beautiful but troubled country and of the search for meaning in difficult times.

Letter to Patience won the Costa Prize for Poetry and made John’s reputation, the equal of Muldoon, Heaney and Hill as a poet of autobiographical realism, according to one reviewer. This sad time certainly calls for a re-reading of these two books, and remembrance of John Haynes.

Mick Felton