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H-J Hoyles

Bàrd agus Neach-teagaisg

H-J Hoyles is a poet, writer and educator from Skipton in North Yorkshire. He works primarily using the legacy of the Yorkshire dialect of his home area, sometimes incorporating Scots and other languages. His work primarily focuses on the issues of nature and our place within her, the relationships between the old and the new, specifically the ghosts of the Hen Ogledd (the Celtic Old North) and the place of mental health in the world we love in. He is based in Leith and is in the process of converting his monthly Alcove poetry nights into an online experience.

Culture is an intriguing landscape to try and establish. I find myself widening my ability to process the ‘cultural landscape’ and the many pluralities which that can encompass, every day.

Coming from a rather narrow cultural upbringing in rural North Yorkshire, the breadth of what is out there, and the most innovative, most sensitive, most invigorating ways in which to explore it all, are in a state of unfolding, which I will doubtless be overwhelmed by without the lens, the dowsing rod, the whisper of assurance that the arts act as for me. The arts are a bubbling, vigorous, often elemental force which run throughout our lives, even for those of us who are least willing to admit their fondness for the artistic, whose resistance to definition and structuring can at times make them seem capricious. I find that, actually, they are reflections of the world we inhabit, and enable us to see the best of that.


The vein of acceptance which connects even the most diversely spaced cultural exchanges together is a tool of freedom for me. Being able to interact with the dead, to discover old worlds and new, to step inside the life of another person and hear their tongue create sound is a privilege that we must never lose sight of. The arts demand time, effort and dedication, often making a stable life incompatible with their necessities, but what you put in, you more than certainly get out. The arts have been a lifelong meditation, so far, with the breakthroughs, moments of shock, awe and transcendence forming the keystones of my memory and identity, with a good bit of breathing along the way.

They are my bread and butter, to be honest!

As a teacher, I have the privilege of opening doors into the worlds of some of my favourite writers for my students - if they are in the mood - but more than that, the pursuit of the arts and the desire to appreciate them in as many forms as possible is the prime reason to wake up in the morning. My main motivation is the spreading of the freedom I feel party to, as a result of my exposure to the arts: visual, musical, literary, each shade of the spectrum fitting a particular moment in our lives, and their appreciation and use is a galvanising education to us all, as we age.

After spending a day teaching about poetry, I will return home, sit myself down and push out some of the ideas which have been collecting in and around whatever spraff I have conjured for my students that day, in the hope that some of it will turn into my own poems. I am not a writer for my living - maybe one day - but not for now anyway. However, I run poetry events in my own area of Leith. Until recently, I was hoping to expand further afield, but we will have to wait that out and see, for now. These events form a crucial part of my life, as the number of wonderful poets I have seen perform has been astonishing, with some beautiful moments shared in our time together. 

In my writing, I don’t go in for the big issues, ostensibly. I prefer to let them present themselves through a project and work my way out, from there on in. Much of my work at the moment is concerned with home, particularly my home, which I'm using as a means to exploring how to access the universal through something which is ancient, highly specific and, as a consequence, potentially isolating.

I think that far too often - possibly because it is a newly popular outlet - a lot of work currently runs the risk of being too ‘current’ or too direct a confrontation of issues which affect an individual. It is important to think of how your work can affect those ever so different to you, as well as those whom you may share an ostensible bond with - be it cultural, sexual, philosophical or your social positioning.

Even though all art is subjective and specific, there are real feats of wonder which can be accomplished through being outside of oneself, outside of your own space and time, when in the act of creation.

I have always seen art as a way of uniting people through celebration, even of the most painful and distressing aspects of life, and anything which sets out to be divisive is something I approach with caution. From division can come great debate and progress, but it can deepen a furrow and create gulfs which are actually more destructive than anything else.

For me, life in 2020 is built around lots of internal activity, plenty of time staring into space wondering how to make that last bit of magic go its optimum way. Up until the last week, creativity has been very much worked around my role as a teacher, with a lot of that creativity going into my efforts to teach my students, but now, who knows? Maybe those ghosts which have been heckling me for months on end will be set to words. The only other option is insanity! 

The vast majority of my work starts off in bursts of activity, which tend to form blotches in the overall end piece, which I spend a lot more time connecting and working on to create a sense of cohesion.

It is this which tends to suffer when working around my other responsibilities, so I am looking forward to creating some positivity to what is, at present, a very daunting situation, particularly for people who suffer from mental health issues. One of the most important aspects of creative life, for me at the very least, is to do one's utmost to establish connections, to tap into the beautiful sense of community that the arts naturally fosters, and to get a real feel for the place you spend your artistic life in. To be grounded in the culture of the space you inhabit is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, which I would encourage everyone with any artistic interests to embrace wholeheartedly. Up until recently much of this would have involved attending face-to-face events, but the switch to online accessibility is well underway, as evidenced by this platform.

An Aghaidh na Stainge

I’ve always been a big fan of getting some breathing space and moving away from my regular place to begin new projects. I tend to find myself compensating for the distance between myself and my home with new work, but that doesn’t seem like it will be on the horizon for quite some time now! So I will be pushing, pushing, pushing over the next few months; I have made preparations to ensure that there is no way I will be rendered unable to work, and now, where there is time, time abounding, I will be settling myself into the life of a ‘proper’ writer, that is, one who sits themselves down and makes it happen, for hours at a time. My ambition is to turn the energy I would have otherwise been spending to the arts, and forcing a sense of discipline upon my creative processes. I very rarely write for prolonged periods of time, and I am determined to change that under the quarantine.

I am also looking forward to exploring the personally uncharted territory of the internet arts world. My poetry events of the past have always been based in the wonderful Leith Depot, but now I need to use this time and circumstance to change and adapt, so I will be attempting to keep the links we have already established going, whilst growing our platform and bringing more people into the family!

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