AN acclaimed American poet paid a memorable visit to the Airedale Writers Circle’s July meeting.

Lola Haskins comes from Florida, but she has strong emotional ties to North Yorkshire, and she says she wants half her ashes scattered on the moors here.

Now spending three months each year in Skipton, she has previously lived on and off in the UK.

She once even owned a house without water or electricity beneath Malham Cove, which was bulldozed by the council in her absence as “not being fit for human habitation”!

A maverick, her inspirations include the natural world and human relationships, passions which came across powerfully as she read her poems to us, a replete, slim, warm presence that fuses into audiences rather than crashing into them.

Her life story confirms these passions and her “live-on-the-edge” inclinations.

Graduating in Anthropology, with a life-long love of literature, she ended up serendipitously as a university computer science teacher. This was in spite of her having no technical qualifications, she was just self-taught on the back of her love for logic.

She earned departmental disapproval by skewing each teaching task to her own agenda.

But the career for her was a side-issue, as relationships with her students were the key driver. She discovered in later life that two of these students had been rescued from suicide by her intervention.

Personal re-invention, logical thinking and emotional intelligence inform her poetry, which in its fluidity, descriptive power, discipline and sensitivity transforms mundane events into moments of enlightenment and catharsis.

Her recent collection, 44 Ambitions for the Piano, reflects her decision to learn piano at 40.

Her fingers struggled with the ivories, but her brain quickly assimilated the essences of musical notation, structure and meaning.

These poems re-invent the connection between music and listener. Pianissimo: “To play pianissimo/is to carry sweet words/to the old woman in the last dark row/who cannot hear anything else/ and to lay them across her lap like a shawl.”

Accidentals: (these are notes outside the official key signature of a piece), first plays with the notion that life runs amok like these wayward notes, then morphs seamlessly into a tragic evocation of a family bereaved after an accident.

Unexpected juxtapositions and pin-point metaphors create poems that sear into the mind and stay there to illuminate life anew. Leading musicians have collaborated with Lola in live performances of this collection.

She has published 14 collections of poetry, a self-help treatise for poets and a non-fiction book on Florida Cemeteries.

There is no Airedale Writers’ Circle meeting in August, so AWC meets again on Tuesday September 12 at 7.30pm in Sight Airedale, Scott Street, Keighley, with a members’ workshop.