You is the new book-length long poem by Costa-Award winning poet, John Haynes.
The ‘You’ of the title is the narrator’s wife of many years, partner in a cross-cultural union: he is a white British man and she was born and raised in Nigeria. Exploring a partnership based on culturally different – and sometimes painfully incompatible – conceptions of ‘love’, the poem is knit together by the philosophical theme of ‘I’ and ‘you’ seen from many perspectives.
The poetry moves from the Nigeria where the couple first met, re-created with great joy and sensitivity, through their ‘new’ life in Britain and all the contrasts and problems it provokes: exposure to racism, unfamiliar customs, homesickness, cold weather, raising children in a strange land.
Written in an adaptation of a traditional ‘Rhyme Royal’ stanza used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats, Haynes nevertheless writes in beautifully clear English vernacular and this poem, set out in sections of three stanzas, flows unbroken from beginning to end.
On Letter to Patience:
"... ambitious and brilliant... as a poet of autobiographical realism on a grand scale, Haynes is the equal of Muldoon, Heaney or Hill, while his philosophical self-effacement is all his own. Full of wit, learning and humanity, this is wide writing that ought to be widely known."
"This is a work of great intelligence and immaculate formalism. Haynes’ rhyming energy never flags, his writing stays dynamic, and at the end he employs one of the best imagistic sleights of hand since William Carlos Williams."
John Haynes won the 2006 Costa Prize for Poetry with his previous book, Letter to Patience (Seren), another long poem set in part in Nigeria during troubled times. A lecturer with a background in linguistics, Haynes is a superb reader of his work.