Life of Art interview: John Hayes

Many thanks to everyone who has been keeping up with these Life of Art interviews – just a few left to post! Here is the perspective of musician and poet John Hayes.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now?

John Hayes here, & I’m in a very new “here,” as I just moved to Portland, Oregon from rural southwestern Idaho.  I’m excited to be back in an urban environment—had lived in San Francisco prior to the Idaho move, so I’ve been putting myself thru alternate urban/rural culture shock over the past 15 years.

I teach guitar to supplement my “regular” income, which is thru Social Security (disability due to a significant lung condition.)  The latter has its drawbacks certainly, but on the other hand, it is “steady.”

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I have two creative practices, & in most ways, the twain never meet.  I’ve been involved with music since childhood, but from my teens until age 40 my focus was on poetry; I went the MFA route, but never really got comfortable in the mainstream of the poetry biz.  In the mid 90s, I put poetry aside & went back to music with a will, & have been performing in several incarnations from the late 90s on.

That is one shiny guitar!

In 2008, I began writing poetry again, & have done so in fits & starts since.  But music remains my consistent creative outlet.

Where do you find inspiration?

In both poetry & music, I draw from emotion—I suppose I’m an incurable romantic!  As far as music goes, as a solo performer I play old blues from the 20s & 30s, & you have to connect with a strong emotion to put that across.  In terms of poetry, my work seems to do with “memory & desire” (to quote a famous poet.)

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I believe I’ve learned patience over time.  With poetry, I no longer try to force things, & am satisfied to write when I feel the need & not write when I don’t.  The fact that I can always pick up a guitar & play helps!  But even with music, one goes thru “plateau” phases; you have to be committed to the technical aspects of playing while also cutting yourself some slack to grow organically as a player.

What does success look like to you?

Musically, I love to perform, & I love to connect with an audience.  The audience needn’t be big nor the venue the hippest place going, but I feel I only grow musically when I share the music with others.  Success as a poet?  I believe my answer to that would be too complicated for the scope of this interview, but it wouldn’t have to do with publications & awards.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

Perhaps it’s not so much a question of “knowing,” but of connecting emotionally.  If I can connect emotionally with a musical or poetical audience, then I’m fulfilled.

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