About Oliver

Parthenon Grace and Oliver Haskard at Parthenon, Athens, Greece

The Mystic’s last prayer to the Goddess

Within the silver darkness of my heart
I feel  the light of thy eternal grace,
the divine origin that has no name
no shape, but in my contemplative state
to know it’s there puts me in ecstasy.
To feel but not to think – that’s inner peace.
So Thou, who art the fantasy of death,
the arbiter of life, ah set me free,
the corset of my flesh constraineth me
ah, cut me free,
so I come once again into the womb
of thy creation, covered in the caul
that is the lining of immortal love.     by  Oliver Haskard

…….   Oliver Haskard (1919-2014) left behind numerous poems and a half dozen epic poems  (100-300 pages each) which are based on Greek myths and lore but interpreted anew from a female point of view and written in the mode of Homer and Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

One collection of his poems, Regenesis was self-published in 1988.  Other poems were printed in local papers,  or presented at readings and family occasion.  The six epic Greek legend poems have not been presented except privately.   This web page endeavors to preserve and present a complete collection of Oliver’s work.

Over the years I have helped him with computer use in light of his failing eye-sight, and especially back-ups, of which there are a number to sift through for his final versions.   Hence I now serve as editor/webmaster. This web site is a work in progress.   I am willing, though not necessarily the most able,  to provide introductions and context to the “Greek” epics.  Part of my willingness comes from the fact that my mother and I met Oliver in Greece in 1971, leading to their 42 year marriage.  Where Oliver has identified a muse for his large works, it has always been her:  Grace> Sasha > Tanya  (nee Grace Charlotte Alexander).

On this page, an introduction and brief overview of Oliver’s writing follows, and then an obituary.   Other tabs above will take you to his works.

Disclaimer: Oliver Haskard left England for summer holiday in Greece in 1971.  He there met Grace Alexander Rayfield who was with a six week University study tour.  Grace had taken the tour previously, and was so enchanted by it that she had returned. She brought two of her sons- Ford and me.   I was immersed in the coursework.   Present at the beginning of their relationship, but unaware of the impact on my life or theirs, I now find myself editing and presenting  Oliver’s writing to the family and literary public.  I have taken this role not out of vanity that I am the right person for the task, but out of family devotion.  Oliver’s work deserves professional treatment, and one day may perchance receive it.  Meanwhile, for me it is paramount that his writing be preserved in an organized fashion for family and friends who can relate the quality of his writing with his personal story.  If it finds a broader audience, and if it merits  and receives better treatment than my meager talents afford it, I can be not better pleased.

Overview: Oliver’s writings consist of six epic poems based on Greek mythology and lore, and numerous shorter poems, some of which were collected in a chapbook titled Regenesis, self-published in 1988 in Vermont

Regenesis was  self-published in 1988 when Oliver and Grace (AKA Tanya and Sasha) were living in Warren Vermont, having sold their book shop to me in 1986.  The cover illustration is a symbolic  and androgynous variation of Da Vinci’s  Vitruvian Man. It was drawn by Cricket Coleman, a friend of my brother Ford Rayfield.  Regenesis is 68 pages, and contains 57 poems, one of which – Regenesis- covers 15 pages. Printed copies are no longer available. The tab above gives access to a full scanned copy.

Hermione  (1999)
Ariadne and Dionysus (1999)
Helen of Troy (1999)
Orpheus  (2001)
Medea and Jason  (2004)
Penelope   (2014)  99 pages

(dates are based on computer files dates which were likely incorrect as creation dates)

Some of his poems were presented at my marriage to Holliday Kane Rayfield in 1995.  As other poems surface in family troves, they will be added here.

Summaries:

Hermione (1999) AKA  Story of Hermione
  Hermione is the daughter of Helen (of Sparta and Troy). This version includes  Helen, and  Hermione’s fiance Orestes (the namesake of the famed Oresteia and its post-Trojan War vendetta’s).  Aeschylus’s trilogy already has strong female characters, so this may be Oliver’s step-off from ancient Greek sources.

Helen of Troy (1999?)  AKA  Helen’s Story
Helen says she is from Sparta, taken off to Troy, thereby inciting the Trojan War. Herein is Helen’s perspective on this ten-year warfare which usually focuses onthe “heroes” and not the victims.

Ariadne and Dionysus (1999?) AKA Nysa’s Story of Ariadne and Dionysus
    Nysa is Oliver’s invented maid of the dead Ariadne, telling of the treachery of King Theseus of Crete, and Ariadne’s son  (not husband!) Dionysus, who may been part-god. Olivers sees the goddess cult transmitting through Ariadne, Dionysus, and Orpheus.

Orpheus  (2001)  AKA  Finding Orpheus, a novel in verse
  Orpheus the musician searches the underworld for his lost love.  In Oliver’s version, Orpheus himself is being sought by Cleo, and this is her story.

Medea (2004)   AKA  Medea: Her Story as Told By Herself
……………………AKA The Story of Medea and Jason
    Jason has been sent in quest of the Golden Fleece to recover his birthright as King.  Medea, a priestess, aids him and loves him. Is he true?  Oliver’s version is as true as any to the many ancient variations of this tale. Medea’s view dominates of course.

Penelope (2014)  AKA Penelope and the Fisherman’s Daughter
   Penelope was the wife of Odysseus (Ulysses) who kept the home, beset by suitors, while her husband fought the Trojan War and then took a ten year journey ( Odyssey) to return home. Oliver places a young woman from a neighboring island as Penelope’s companion through the ordeal and Odysseus’ return.

Oliver portrait

Oliver Patrick Miller Haskard-  Obituary

  Peaceful Poet Passes

Oliver Haskard left us in this world on 10 October, 2014, due to natural causes near his summer home in Somonauk,  Illinois.  Oliver was born May 24, 1919 in Lancashire, England.  He was educated at Eton College and Cambridge University.  During World War II he served in France, Belgium and Germany with the Royal Horse Guards (“The Blues”), and latterly became a Captain and intelligence officer.  Among his war experiences, he saw service liberating concentration camps. The war turned Oliver into a life-long active pacifist. He rejected a career in the Foreign Service and turned to dairy farming, feeding his cattle on potatoes by necessity in post-war England. He expanded his agricultural career into gardening and landscape design, following Voltaire’s conclusion in Candide that we must grow our gardens. Oliver grew gardens in England, and then emigrated with his American wife, Tanya-Grace, and created gardens at their disparate homes in Warren, Vermont,  Longboat Key, Florida,  Somonauk, Illinois, and Green Valley, Arizona.  In Vermont from 1977 to 1986 they provided the Mad River Valley with literature, art, and music from the Tempest Book Shop, staying on in the family business until 1994. Oliver created soil out of seeming refuse on the rocks under the maple trees of West Hill Road in Warren, and in the Arizona desert.  Ever a poet, he created his versions of Greek myths, Orpheus, Helen, Penelope and others, retelling those tales in iambic pentameter from a female perspective, and usually with a strong anti-war perspective.  His poetry was sparingly published but loved by family and friends. He regularly publicly protested against war.

Oliver leaves behind in this earthly garden his wife of 42 years, Tanya Grace,  his son Professor Dorian O Haskard MD  and his wife Kathleen of London, and his daughter Victoria Philipson and her husband Robert Jones of London, as well as his five stepchildren and spouses Rick and Holliday Rayfield, Scott and Pattie Rayfield, Marjorie Rayfield, Ford and Diane Rayfield, and Tarquin and Cindy Rayfield .   Oliver also lives on in fifteen grandchildren who miss his earthy and literary and peace-seeking wisdom.

No funeral services are planned.   ( From Tanya Grace Haskard,  Rick Rayfield, and Dorian Haskard)

 

IMG_4780 Grace and Oliver in Vermont

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