Lesley-Anne Evans is a “Belfast born poet whose art celebrates the sacred in all things”.
Her poetry has been published in several literary journals, including the prestigious The Antigonish Review.
Serving homeless and marginalized people at Metro Community is a practical expression of her spirituality. She lives in Kelowna with her husband on acreage where her Pointer has plenty of room.
If you were to write a micro biography of your life, what would it say?
Lesley-Anne Evans is a beauty hunter with words, with images, in relationship to people; her job on this earth is simply to ask, “What if?” And to come alongside people and help them to discover their belovedness.
In your work, what has been your most memorable experience?
The first time I was ever published in a Canadian Literary journal – The Antigonish Review. It helped me to see that I had something of merit.
What is it about poetry that continues to interest and inspire you?
Poetry is both a curiosity and a challenge. When I give myself over to it I’m surprised at the depth to which the poetry digs into me and at what comes up.
The challenge is that the process is ongoing. It constantly asks me to say it in a clearer way, and to sometimes say things that are next to impossible to articulate.
How would you best describe your style?
I’m a lyric poet: free verse rather than rhyming poetry.
What are the central themes in your work?
What it means to be a woman and what it means to be a witness to other people’s lives.
Some of my work has been with marginalized people. When I have an opportunity to be with them in community their sharing sometimes becomes, with permission, part of my work.
What are the central life experiences that have impacted your work?
Being born in Northern Ireland and immigrating to Canada. Being Irish has informed my work. Other people have remarked that there’s evidence of an Irish musicality in my work – I wasn’t even aware of that.
As well, moving from Eastern Canada to the West where our life changed from a predominantly urban one to living in a place where the natural environment is available at a moment’s notice where the beauty of the landscape is so evident wherever I look.
Volunteering at Metro Community with marginalized and homeless people has given me eyes to see a completely new perspective on things.
And being excommunicated from my faith community as a young woman allowed me to look into what marginalization really means.
Being a wife, being a mother, being in relationship with people has definitely impacted my work. Poetry is first a personal expression; and I seek universality, what’s common to humanity, in the things I’m actually experiencing. Every experience impacts my work.
Why is art important?
Poets are kind of subversive in some ways. There are all these beautiful and horrible things that happen in the world and most of the time we don’t know how to process them.
Artists process these things and mirror them back to us in a way that we might find surprising and that we may allow into us in a unique way.
Art is also transformative; it can elevate and lift us out of our circumstances, and make us feel things that are beyond description.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Specifically to my art? – Any time someone receives it – whether in a journal, or if someone comes up to me after I’ve read a poem and they express how the words touched them, that underlies the meaning and purpose of what I do.
What is your most vivid memory of childhood?
My extended family, my grandparents and my great aunts and uncles lived in a rural setting in Southern Ontario on a dairy farm and they grew cash crops including hay. So one of my most vivid memories is participating in harvesting the hay.
And being on the hay wagon late into the day; I imagine the golden light at that time of day; participating in the loading of the bales. I’m sure it was the men (loading); But just that whole concept of being with your family, doing work, and the beauty of this agricultural, rural setting come to mind.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m curious. And that can lead down all kinds of rabbit trails.
If you could, what would you change about yourself?
I would absolutely stop being so nice.
What is your greatest fear?
Getting to a point where I wasn’t able to make a contribution.
What would you regard to be the lowest depth of misery?
To be alone.
Besides the birth of a child, when were you happiest?
Yesterday when I went outside the door a nut-hatch flew down to the bird-feeder; and he was close to me and I was able to see the markings of his feathers and his eyes; it just filled me up.
Every day I have moments like that.
What is it that you most dislike?
When people are disingenuous. Integrity is really important to me.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
What do you value most in friendship?
Having someone I can count on; at the same time I want to maintain independence; so I can’t have a needy relationship.
How would you like to die?
What comes to mind is Elijah [in the Bible]. The story told of him was that he walked with God and was no more.
Besides family, what really matters to you?
I love books; deep conversations; to live a life that has margins; I like time for solitude or room to cook something different; having a person drop in without feeling stressed that, “Oh, you’re getting in the way of my life” so I’ve intentionally chosen to live a slow, counter-culture life.
If you were to die and come back as another person, who would be?
A truer version of me.
Is there a question that I didn’t ask but that you hoped I would ask?
What brings meaning to your life? And then related to that is “What is saving your life today?”
What is saving your life today?
My spirituality and my space has shifted so much in the past 10-15 years out of a place of boxes to a more wide open space where I can say for the first time, “I don’t know the answer to that question, and it’s okay to not know – everything is not black and white.
So I’ve put myself into specific places to learn new ways; and through that I’m beginning to embrace the mystery of who God is. And I feel freer than I’ve ever felt in my life.
So that’s what’s saving me – allowing a transformation to take place rather than checking off boxes to see if I’ve performed enough now to be in the good graces.