Lesley-Anne Evans was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She graduated with a B.L.Arch. from University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, in 1987, and practiced Landscape Architecture and theme park design in Toronto, Ontario, for several years. Lesley-Anne moved west to Kelowna, British Columbia, where she pursues creative contentment with her husband of 27 years, three young adult children, and rehabilitated hound. Lesley-Anne’s poetry has placed in contests, and is published by Leaf Press, and in The Antigonish Review, CV-2, Quills, Ascent, Sage-ing, Pantheos, UBCO’s Lake Journal, and others. Lesley-Anne is drawn to poetic activism and word sharing activities with her street level initiative Pop-Up-Poetry, and facilitates a poetry circle with writers who live on the streets. She sees artists and poets as culture makers, and art in all its varied forms as witness, influencer, advocate and healer.
Geosi Gyasi: Let’s begin with your poem, “Desert” published in the Issue Two of One Throne Magazine. How did you come to write it?
Lesley-Anne Evans: A theme of interpersonal understanding often finds its way into my work. This particular poem emerged during a challenging time in my marriage, one where we were struggling to communicate and banging up against the same wall repeatedly. My realization through the poem, was that that in the dark, without words, may be a better way. The poem brought perspective to me.
Geosi Gyasi: What inspires you to write?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I am inspired by both concrete and abstract ideas, and the broadening of momentary experiences into a more universal story. I am a lengthy processor, so for me, inspiration usually happens over a series of days, but is happening much faster of late. An idea comes like a flash of light, then I sit down and write.
Geosi Gyasi: When did you actually become a writer?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I have always loved books, and was a voracious reader as a girl, thanks to my dear father, who took me weekly to the public library. I dabbled in writing poetry when young, then wrote what was required throughout schooling, rather than pursuing creative expression in writing. After obtaining my professional degree at University, I pursued a creative career as a Landscape Architect and theme park designer for several years, then gave myself fully to the task of raising a family.
My concentrated journey in writing began in 2006, with a two year commitment to spiritual formation, and a (re)discovery of a way of being and doing with words. I write now because it has become a practice for me, and a daily commitment. Writing helps me live with integrity, emotionally, spiritually, and is a means whereby I can give to others through mentoring, installations, readings, public engagement etc.
Geosi Gyasi: Could you tell something about your blog, “Buddy Breathing”?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Buddy Breathing is a place where I can give to others, where I can open my life transparently, my struggles and insights, and offer everything with a, “what if?” or “I wonder.” I don’t blog as much as I used to, with my writing work currently focused on poetry and other projects. Perhaps I should return to the blog again?
Geosi Gyasi: When did you start blogging?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I began with “My Gracenotes” in 2006, then kept two blogs onward from there, with “Sometimes Suicidal Mama,” then launched and facilitated an online community of women writers, called “Pink Ink Workshop.” In 2010 I morphed my blogs into Buddy Breathing.
Geosi Gyasi: You recently began showcasing your photography at See/Saw. Do you mind sharing anything about “See/Saw”?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I believe that all my creative pursuits, whether blogging, writing poetry or taking photographs is about seeing, then sharing what I see. Photography is a dialect of the language of beauty. I find the world to be a profoundly beautiful place, and attempt to capture and share that beauty with others. It is both an artistic and a spiritual expression for me.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the best time to write?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Mornings are always best for me. Weekdays I set aside office hours to work on current projects, write, edit, and market my work.
Geosi Gyasi: What kind of category would you place your poems?
Lesley-Anne Evans: The underlying themes of my poetry are landscapes of the earth and spirit, including interpersonal relationships, experiences and stories, nature, and faith.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you have a specific audience you write for?
Lesley-Anne Evans: My work honours what is, and points to the possibility that there is more than meets the eye. I consider my audience to be anyone who senses the same, anyone open to the possibility of there being a grander purpose. I believe God speaks, apart from me. I am not required to be a spokesperson, but I am excited to be allowed to grow as a scribe of truth and beauty, and to write down certain things. Not always, but sometimes, when words come, and the time is right, I get to say certain things. Then someone will tell me what I wrote resonated, touched, or wrenched them, and I will sense a greater purpose in my creative birthing process. I try to write with expectancy of something more than me and my words.
Geosi Gyasi: Is there any relationship between faith and writing?
Lesley-Anne Evans: In my opinion the two cannot be separated. What is in me, in my soul and my spirit, is distilled into my words. How I see the world, how I process my life experience, is intensely spiritual, and to have integrity in my writing, I must include soulful things. I intentionally do not, or at least try not to, use language that is limiting or lingo. I am a pilgrim following the way of Jesus, and what I write is marinated in that particular world view.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you regard as the greatest poem you’ve ever written?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I am not able to answer that question for you, because I don’t see my work as great or laudable. When someone tells me that one of my poems has impacted them, then I sense I have had the opportunity to be a conduit of God’s love to that person. I see my poetry as a tool that I will continue to craft for healing, not greatness. While I do offer my work up in competition and for publication, it is with the intent of developing the gift, not achieving any status. There are many poets better than I.
Geosi Gyasi: Are you happy as a writer?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I am very happy and fulfilled. I find great pleasure birthing poems and sharing them. I feel I’ve discovered my creative language, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and I am working hard to be the best poet I can be. At the same time, I am looking for the meaning of it, how this treasure of writing poetry can be leveraged to good purpose in this world. I never stop looking and surrendering to that.
Geosi Gyasi: Which writer has had the greatest impact on your writing?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I have a special attachment to Mary Oliver, because her work unleashed me to discover more about contemporary poets and their language. I have come to love the masters and the contemporaries. Someone once said to me, read all the poets, keep the contemporaries on your bookshelf, and the masters on your bedside table. I need to revise my current stack of beside books! These are the poets who have made me weep; John Keats, Wendel Berry, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Donne, Madeleine L’Engle, Patrick Lane, Seamus Heaney, Barbara Colebrook Peace, Rilke, Jean Vanier, and many more.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you care about what critics say when you write?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Yes, I would care. I am a sensitive soul. Very sensitive, but trying to learn to not let the words of people who don’t understand me or know me, hurt me. At this point I have not had critique written, but I have had things said that jar and test my resolve.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you show your manuscripts to friends before they’re sent out to publishers?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I’ve learned to ask certain people to be safe readers of my work. I used to read everything to my family, but that’s not fair is it? What family member would truly say my work isn’t good? I need to have people who aren’t afraid to be honest, aren’t afraid to suggest specific ways to improve my work. I’m currently working with a Booming Ground mentor at University of British Columbia, who is giving me line by line editing of my work. It is a learning curve that is both scary and honing.
Geosi Gyasi: Is there a definite definition for poetry?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I just received a quote last night that says it so well, at least my experience of what poetry is, “I had no one to help me, but [writing] helped me. So when people say that poetry is a luxury… I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language — and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.” — Jeanette Winterson
Geosi Gyasi: What are you currently working on?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I am completing an opera libretto/script for Opera Kelowna and the Kelowna Art Gallery. “Masika” will be performed in October 2015, at its world premier. I’m very excited about this project.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever been rejected for a piece of work?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Absolutely. I have received multiple emails and form letters with written rejections. The best rejection letter I received was from “Rattle” journal, and so kind and encouraging I can hardly wait to send them more work.
Geosi Gyasi: What do you do to relax when not writing?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I like to cook. I like taking photo walks around the city, looking for less obvious, beautiful things, to capture. I like watching Netflix with my husband. I like hanging out with my young adult kids.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you engage in poetry readings?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Yes, I do. I choose this as part of my growth curve, to write and read and test the response, hone that part too. I’ve taken acting to work on the stage presence of readings.
Geosi Gyasi: What inspired your piece, “Migrations” as published in Contemporary Verse 2?
Lesley-Anne Evans: Migrations was a relational experience with my husband and family. It really happened. It’s all there in the poem. Marriages create the very best fodder for poems, I think!
Geosi Gyasi: In just a sentence, why would you like people to read your works?
Lesley-Anne Evans: I hope people will read my poetry works as little worlds held up for them to gaze at and consider. My poetry philosophy is encapsulated in this quote, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”~ Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words. Sorry, that’s more than one sentence. 🙂