Diana Hayes studied at the Universities of British Columbia and Victoria, receiving a B.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing. While at UBC, she was poetry editor of Prism International. Her published books include Moving Inland, The Classical Torso in 1980, The Choreography of Desire, This is the Moon’s Work, Labyrinth of Green, and Gold in the Shadow. Her play, Islomania: Saga of the Settlers – a tribute to Salt Spring Island pioneers – was produced by Salt of the Earth Productions and for the Salt Spring Festival of the Arts. She was a founding member and production manager for Salt Spring's Theatre Alive Society, a member of Photosynthesis, and started the Salt Spring Seals swim team in 2002. Her fine art photography has been exhibited at the Fine Arts Sooke Regional Museum Show; Through a Glass Darkly, ArtSpring; Photosynthesis; Collaborations in a Time of COVID, Artspring; Poems in Calligraphy, Salt Spring Public Library; Salt Spring National Art Show/Parallel Show, Artspring 2021.  Salt Spring Island has been home since 1981.

[Photo by Alane Lalonde]

BOOKS:

Gold in the Shadow: Twenty-two Ghazals and a Cento for Phyllis Webb (Rainbow Publishers, 2021) $24.95 978-0-9734408-7-4
Labyrinth of Green, Poems and Photographs (Plumleaf Press, An Imprint of Rubicon Publishing 2019) 978-1-4867-3270-2
This is the Moon's Work: New and Selected Poems (Mother Tongue 2011) $19.95 978-1-896949-11-6
Coming Home (anthology), 2003 Rainbow Publishers
The Choreography of Desire, 1999 Rainbow Publishers
The Classical Torso in 1980, 1987 Pulp Press
Moving Inland, 1979 Fiddlehead Poetry Books
Two of Swords (anthology, co-editor), 1976 Poets' Trust

[BCBW 2019] "Poetry" "Stageplay"

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REVIEW


Reviewed by Isabella Wang in The Ormsby Review, August 30, 2021

Couplets of inspired brushstrokes

The poetry community flourishes on a synergism of influence, friendships, and what poet Stephen Collis calls, "the poetics of response."1 These resonances collect throughout Diana Hayes's Gold in the Shadow -- a long, serial poem virtuoso responding to the lilting lines and 'golden shadows' of Phyllis Webb's painterly and poetic repertoire. Structured as 'twenty-two ghazals and a cento' -- one for each consecutive night working on this project -- Hayes's couplets impart a synchronous spirit to Webb's "anti ghazals" in Water and Light (1984). Together, they celebrate and continue Webb's innovative explorations into "the local, dialectical and private"2 possibilities of the free-verse ghazal.

In the ghazal, there are no enjambments or evident thematic correlations bridging its couplets; however, each verse subsists on its musicality and spiritual, emotional depth. In the case of Gold in the Shadow, Hayes's couplets dance like inspired brushstrokes -- au courant, enthralling, and profoundly moving. As a friend who visits Webb regularly and a fellow co-habitator of Salt Spring Island, her lines capture the solace of Webb's "opal moons" and local weather in the ghazal's transformed canvases of a conversation:

How is it I drift in and out inconspicuously?

SYOWT's stone bowl floods, the opal moon's salinity.

Elsewhere, the musical registers of Webb's own poetry are directly heard:

I recite your lines past the broken shell of my ear.

Here and then gone, the tumbled bay receding.

Like the "tumbling bay," Webb's words evince a permeating presence that comes and goes in Gold in the Shadow. Engrafted, they appear perfectly at home in the ars poetica of Hayes's attentive readership and response.

More conversations unfold in Ghazal V, one of Hayes's most unique and interactive segments. Each couplet engenders a reverberation of Webb's work in "postcards," "painted premonitions: beaks, […] Scented brush strokes, rising," and through the remobilization of the poet's own questions. Whereas Webb, in Naked Poems (1965), introduced a minimalist form of poetic questions and responses, these inquiries now structure the hybrid expanse of Hayes's ghazals in concert with lines from Wilson's Bowl (1980):

What are you sad about? Doting, unfaithful, true?

The nuthatch with burnished breast and kohl eyes cries but does not sing.

In "Twenty-Two Lines: A Cento for Phyllis," the memorable chords of Webb's ghazals are arranged into a found segment of two interconnected ghazals. Repositioned to form new and meaningful relationships, Webb's "pretty pebble, divine bird, honorable tree" greets "the secret heart of a poem" for the first time, and her voice is what ultimately lingers in the final pages of Gold in the Shadow.

Writing, for Webb, is at once a private and political activity. In observing the small joys and occurrences of the everyday, her lines in Water and Light attest to a labour that goes into writing and producing bodies of work for women across the passing of ordinary hours:

The women writers, their heads bent under the light,

Work late at their kitchen tables.3

Hayes's ghazals, composed entirely at night, align with similar sentiments. At times when poetic composition meets challenges, the couplets themselves are transformed by a process wherein "the hours become years. Silences erase stanzas." Understandably, the ghazals in Gold in the Shadow are deeply embodied. From a visual translation of Webb's painting, Spirit Mountain, into "manganese blue and rain on a cumulus day," to the olfactive of "inhaling slivers of rain," Hayes's singular couplets are complete poetic experiences in themselves that entice the imagination of the body's collective senses. Choreographed in the couplet,

The heart riding in its hooded calash follows the Seine.

Like love and death, I am counting, counting.

Her end repetition of "counting, counting" aurally intuits a subtle homage to the distinctive rhythmic pulses first adopted by John Thompson and his ghazals in Stilt Jack4. Where she writes of "Thompson's ghazals. He sits between couplets, listening," he is indeed hearing the words and between.

Although the ghazal has traditionally been compared to the qualities of a gazelle -- light and fleeting, while "galloping" from couplet to couplet with utmost intensity -- Hayes employs a creative technique that pairs each ghazal with an inventory of poetic footnotes on the accompanying page. The carefully curated content of these footnotes varies from a title of Webb's book or painting that Hayes is referencing, to the "song repertoire" of the Bewick's wren that "forsakes the songs of the father" in a couplet. Other times, where Salt Spring Island's site-specific imagery appears as transient flickers in the "galloping" transitions of Hayes's ghazals, her footnotes offer an extended account of the histories and stories of these places, acknowledging a personal responsibility of use. In writing that "the ghazal was the official language of my nights," Hayes has made a language out of the relationships and compassionate influences garnered within form. In "shadowing" Webb, her ghazals are concomitantly the plum light [that] falls more golden / golden down.5

[1] See chapter two. Collis, Stephen. Phyllis Webb and the Common Good: Poetry / Anarchy / Abstraction. BC: Talon Books 2007.

[2] See Webb's preface in Water and Light, where she expresses her vision for a use of the ghazal that strayed from the traditional thematic of universal love.

[3] Ghazal 3 in Webb's Sunday Water.

[4] For more of this beautiful, consoling, rhythmic beat, see John Thompson's Stilt Jack, ghazals XVII, XVIII, XXII, XXIII, XXVII, XXIX,

[5] A line grafted from Webb's Naked Poems, "Suite II".

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REVIEW


[Published in the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, on Dec. 11, 2019]

Hayes shares 'Labyrinth of Green'
Poetry and images found in new book and library exhibit

By Elizabeth Nolan

Diana Hayes' remarkable talents are fully evident this month, with release of her new book Labyrinth of Green and a photo exhibit at the Salt Spring Public Library showcasing her wonderful way with both words and image.

Though small in size and just about 100 pages, Labyrinth of Green holds a remarkable range of expression. The Plumleaf Press publication is beautifully produced, with its bright white cover and pages set off by full-colour images.

Hayes has provided new poetry divided into five different categories that move from reflections on her youth and her family to experiences with nature, through to death and beyond. Supplementing these thoughtful meditations are her own beautiful photos, plus quotations from fellow poets, introductory passages and even the odd footnote. End notes provide more information on the provenance of some of the poems.

Hayes is certainly adept at the poetic use of language, shaping complex thoughts and layers of meaning into spare and elegant arrangements of words. The visual and emotional imagery of a single stanza can be breathtaking. Take for example the beginning of Psyche and the Ladder, which addresses the lessons of adolescence through the metaphors of Greek mythology and its underworld. "A switch gets tripped/without warning she steps blind/ into the sinkhole dropping/ from daylight to pitch night/ feeling only the blood on her shins."

In the section related to death, Hayes ably demonstrates the Celtic reverence for the transformation and the close connection between the natural and eternal worlds, with birds often acting as medium and messenger. The poems These Little Deaths and Thirteen Ways to Free a Crow offer eyewitness accounts of life and death as close at hand as the backyard. Hayes illustrates the heartbreak of "small" deaths in a way that honours our emotional capacity for grief and opens the possibility of mystery beyond, even while accepting that the natural cycle of life necessarily includes its loss.

"Raven's chorus strikes grief by the neck/ the forest a dark audience," she writes in These Little Deaths.

Hayes' library exhibition is testament to her long commitment to expression in multiple formats. The lobby showcase displays some of her many previous publications, including books and programs for the Theatre Alive literary series she cofounded with author Brian Brett.

The photo exhibit in the program room features some of the images from her new book, including those of lovely green, stony places in Ireland and England that speak to Hayes' connection to her ancestry. There are also some interesting examples from photo series in which Hayes' dreams played a strong role.

The photo show continues through December. Look for Labyrinth of Green at local shops or the library.

For more on this story, see the Dec. 11, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.