About John Lyons
John’s poems sway and sing with the sounds and rhythms of his childhood in Trinidad and Tobago, in the Caribbean. As well as conjuring up what it was like to grow up on that sunny Island, John fills his work with the people and places he knew as a boy, from his great granny to other members of his family, as well as with mythical figures from Trinidad’s stories, like the scary spirits we meet in poems like ‘Witch Ghost’.
John’s poems often talk about what it’s like to leave one place and come to another, but also – with their love of home and family and their memories of growing up – help connect people in both places and highlight that we can travel back and forth in our imaginations and memories.
John sometimes writes in patois, the local dialect of Trinidad and Tobago, and his reading helps us to feel part of this far-away place, to get a feel for its colours, food and stories. John’s musical reading and the feeling he puts into his voice brings out the meaning of words we might not have come across before, and helps us to feel the rhythm and patterns of his language.
John uses a wide variety of styles, voices and forms in his work from narratives and free verse to character poems and there’s even a villanelle – try to spot how the form works in ‘Great-Grannie Mammie’s Sunday Food’.
John was born in Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. As a boy he moved to live with his grandmother when his mum died while he was still very young, and it was during this time that he became an avid reader, losing himself in books by Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott and any other writers he could get hold of in the local library.
As well as being a writer, John is also a painter – something that helps to explain the colours and pictures he gets across in his poems. He has taught art and design, as well as creative writing, in schools and universities as well as founding a gallery in Hebden Bridge.
John's recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 19 November 2012 at Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.
Cook-Up in a Trini Kitchen, Peepal Tree, 2009
No Apples in Eden, Smith/Doorstop, 2009
Voices from a Silk-Cotton Tree, Smith/Doorstop, 2002
2003 WindRush Arts Achiever Award
1991 Peterloo Poets Afro-Caribbean, Asian Poetry Prize for 'At Antoine’s Barber Shop'
1991 Arts Council Literary Award for 'Lure of The Cascadura'
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