Letter to Patience is a book-length poem in iambic pentameter, set in 'Patience's Parlour', a small, mud-walled bar in northern Nigeria in 1993 – a time of political unrest. The writer of the letter has returned to Britain, with his Nigerian wife and children, to nurse his dying father.
He writes to Patience, the bar's owner, a woman in her 30s who once lectured in politics at Ahmadu Bello University, across the main road from her bar. She gave up her job partly because of junta pressures on radical academics. The town is volatile – the bar was attacked by the so-called Ayatollahs and would have been burnt had it not backed onto the property of her Hausa landlord.
There are also thoughtful and elegant digressions thrown up by the multiple narratives. The book is not merely biography or an essay on colonialism and post-colonialism, it is an epic portrayal of a beautiful and troubled country and one man's search for meaning in difficult times.
"A marvellous book, an exemplar of sorts; as for the virtuosity it is entirely at the service of a vision."
John Haynes has had a long career in education, and was a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University in the 70s and 80s, where he founded the literary journal, Saiwa. After returning to the UK he has continued teaching, writing and publishing and his poems have appeared widely. Sections of Letter to Patience have been published in The London Magazine, Stand, Poetry Review, Ambit, Critical Quarterly and Poetry Wales. Haynes is the author of a number of books: on teaching, language theory, African Poetry and stories for African children, as well as two volumes of poetry. He has won prizes in the Arvon and National Poetry Competitions.