Aside from travel and music journalism, I have since 1997 been writing and publishing books. Some of these are poems and some travel writing (similar to Bill Bryson). Despite some promotion and a presence on Amazon (UK) none have sold particularly well. As a break from the usual nomadic musings and to intro these works I thought a blog on this side of my output was long overdue.
I have been creative from an early age (haven’t most of us here) and while most of my formative creations were in the visual arts, sometime around age 10 I began writing too. Having won a literary radio contest based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, this came to a shuddering halt four years later, where by visual art assumed its role at the helm of my creative activities. It wasn’t until the early nineties that I began to work with the written word again.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to be a musician? I mean most of them came out of art schools right? Well yes and no. For one, I had no idea how to get into the ‘business’ and secondly, toward the end of the eighties, it was evident that being the next Brian Eno was all but pointless. He had after all created most of the music that needed to be created and picked up the academic accolades to go with it. What he didn’t do, others did succinctly well.
Before I gave up the ghost for good, one last idea presented itself. To do a record using squash balls as percussion with natural and animal sounds (processed through synths of course) to create the tune so to speak. No sooner had I thought this than a gentleman called Nick Glennie-Smith appeared one Saturday evening on the radio show I listened to avidly, announcing his band Gentlemen Without Weapons had done exactly that. A similar fate almost befell another music journalist when New Order’s Blue Monday nearly killed off the aspirations of one Neil Tennant and his Pet Shop Boys. But they were two and I had no-one and nothing.
A music career seemed to be a non starter. This of course was a colossal mistake; the exhibitions and girls follow the music. By the time I found out how to break into the business, it was too late. So I continued on my course determined to be the first pop poet or one who might make poetry commercially viable. This too was an idea served up by many thereafter as any promo for poetry events spoke of it appealing to those who would not normally find the form of interest.
The writing for my first book A Lyrical Oasis began in autumn 1993 and ran alongside my visual arts degree. There was to be no rush and no deadline. The subject matter ranged from straight forward seasons to politics (although I am not a political writer) to musings on my former life in New Zealand, travel and of course Music, still hugely important even if I was not creating it. Eventually I had around 35 poems with the Cycles I and II acting as a kind of intro/outro of sorts. As clever is it was and is, its release in April 1997 yielded little interest.
Youth is responsible for a healthy prolificacy; think about how many bands, authors or film directors are defined by their first or second albums, books or films. And so it continued – any work that didn’t ‘fit’ lyrical was automatically designated to my second book ‘Notate.’ During its creative process came graduation, a life changing event which in turn birthed my unintended induction into life as a nu nomad. I eventually completed it in October 2000. Notate I thought would be better suited to the French market. I think my reasoning was right but didn’t have the funds to promote it there. It again died a pretty sudden death (even if it is still strong in my opinion and quite possibly my favourite of mine).
Around the same time I turned 30 which in itself was worrying. I still had no career, no pension and while the cuddly bearded American (Bryson) was unknown to me raking it in with his observations on travel, I couldn’t get arrested in my own country. Voyage of Nomad, named after my first year of travel around western Europe, became my first travelogue. This would get me some coverage right? Nope. It did get some modest exposure in Wales but nothing needed to make the Bookseller lists. Ironically, the book mentions my short sojourn at the Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Co. Another writer there did manage to get a deal. I found this out years later thumbing through the travel books in of all places Cardiff library. It was certainly eerie reading about a time, place and characters I had met myself! My presence there as a mere transient was noted only as a slew of ‘others.’
Next up was a collection of all the poems that didn’t find a home in either Lyrical or Notate. Titled UNSHINE, the somewhat turbulent musings were coupled with the rather nifty marketing slogan of ‘when the S dissolves, the darkness beckons.’ I didn’t want an agent but I would have liked a forward thinking publisher. None were forthcoming, so I continued to self produce under my own equivocal imprint. Nothing I did mattered to the greater literary scene.
In 2004 bored of sitting in the internet café with an all day ticket to apply for jobs I decided to write a book there and then. Inspired by a visit to Heathrow and all the other airports I had clocked up across the globe, Circles and Bumps was written in two days and released in September. All 24 poems are titled after airport codes eg LHR, LAX etc. Two further travelogues were written 2003’s Returning/Repeating and TEMP, the following year. All three again to zero response.
I should mention that along the way I was approaching some of my fave musicians in an attempt to collaborate. There seemed little point starting a band now. Many responded with polite rejections which inadvertently fuelled what happened next. Rather than to write another poems book or travelogue, I decided to do Bridget Jones from a male perspective. ‘Beats Per Minute’ married tales of rejection once again to music (each story being named after a song – the first time I have utilised titles other than my own). ‘Beats..’ was born in 2008 and became the last book carrying the equivocal name. I sent press to Elle and other woman’s magazines to prompt some interest. I produced a limited run of five different miniatures each featuring two of the stories and sent them to prominent American magazines such as the New Yorker but alas the song remained the same. ‘Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?’ did however receive a mention on Lloyd Cole’s website.
A year later a further poems book, SE, was issued following an overview ‘Symposium of Empty Envelopes.’ Both took to mirror the film/DVD market by including ‘making of..’ features, bonus and hidden material. Ironically, around the same time, a friend had put one of my poems to music. It picked up some radio play on the BBC, by none other than 2-4-6-8 Motorway singer Tom Robinson, by now a gentrified radio host. The song went out around 2am.
Travel has now been my life for around 15 years and I decided it was about time to try out the Chinese market. ‘Year Amid Winter’ dealt with my life on the road and as a newly qualified teacher in Oxford, New Zealand and Turkey. Rather than release it as a book, I instead put it out as a series of FREE blogs. Predictably it bombed but I was relatively happy with what I had; a much more confident and mature take on what Returning/Repeating, a near decade earlier, should have been.
Nowadays the writing is not as fluid as it once was and I have many books at varying stages of unfinished. Later this year I hope to unleash a second volume of airport poems, 10 years after Circles and Bumps – Terminal Wanderlust is set to be another commercial failure, only now most musicians, save a few mainstream artists, are suffering the same fate that affects all creative personnel – a lack of financial income from product.
When I started with Lyrical the big hope was that poets would rise to become the new mainstream art form to rival that of the music business or film industry and poets would be lauded in much the same way as musicians. What has happened is the complete opposite. Now we all struggle together, apart from those who did have the determination to succeed in music at a time when it all still mattered, in the art boom of the eighties.
My books can be found here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kelvin-Hayes/e/B0034OF3LA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 and my songwriting efforts here https://soundcloud.com/kelvin-hayes
Thanks for reading.