By Joanne McQuarrie
Be ready to go through all kinds of feelings when you read ‘Gypsy Muse’.
Norman Bruce Ayers’ recently-published book is a collection of free verse poems that he has been writing for decades. His poems evoke profound ponderances, questions, self introspection.
Ayers has had a fascination with the gypsy culture since he was a young lad, he wrote in the books’s introduction. He’d see gypsies at their encampment when he passed by on his paper route: caravans decorated with gypsy motifs and colours; fortune tellers, and adults and children…”mulling about and a couple were playing haunting music”.
“I would hope that my poetry imitates the freedom of the gypsy culture, and that is why I chose Gypsy Muse as a title.”
Ayers’ poems have been in a free verse form since he started writing them. And brevity, he said, is the key. “It’s shorthand for memory. I’ve never been one given to a lot of prose.
“The important stuff,” Ayers emphasized, “is ,’How does it make you feel?’”
This straight-talking fellow started reading when he was just three years old, obviously a gifted child. “I read every book mom and dad had,” he said. “I borrowed books from neighbours; I could spend afternoons reading encyclopedias at my aunt’s place.” Ayers zoomed through school. “While a teacher was talking I’d finish work from the former class,” he recalled. He never had homework to do.
In April of 1959 Ayers applied to get into the RCMP. He graduated from high school that June. “I ‘cowboyed’ all summer on a neighbours ranch, he said, “and in the fall we commercial fished. Then I got a letter from the force saying I was to report for a medical in Edmonton – but bring a suitcase. I went to Ottawa to a training centre.” That was the beginning of a career that spanned many decades. Ayers retired in 1995 as superintendent of federal policing in Manitoba.
Ayers met his wife, Donna, in Ottawa when he was in training. The first day they met, Ayers knew she was ‘the one’.
Soon after, living in separate communities, the two wrote letters to each other every week; that’s when Ayers started writing poems. In his book, he wrote he needed poetry “for abstract contemplation. It began as love poems to a lover separated by miles over a number of years”. He and Donna were married in 1963, and Ayers continued writing poems. “Poetry acts as my release and cryptic comment about people, places and inner being,” his book reads. “It creates feelings of love, warmth, tears, caring, beliefs, searches. It is a mirror of my inner being, my place within the universe, the group , or my space and your space.”
There are Ayers family ties in Gypsy Muse: Ayers’ favourite poem in Gypsy Muse is ‘My Gypsy’. “It’s one Donna and I discussed before I wrote it,” he said. The oldest poem is ‘Freedom’; Ayers wrote it for their son, Brent, 45 years ago. There’s ‘Johnston’s Widow’, written for their daughter, Andrea. And it was Andrea who created the cover image of a gypsy dancing. Their granddaughter, Stella, drew the gypsy that’s on the back cover.
Ayers is already working on another book of poetry; watch for volume two