Mike Doyle, Collected Poems 1951-2009 A Graph Review

Mike Doyle.    Collected poems 1951-2009                               A Graph Review  average of 70 from serious dipping!

mike doyle coll poems coverPaperback,        Ekstasis Editions. 2010.

978 1897430637      not currently in print.

It would take more than the likes of me to review properly a collection of poetry covering  58 years of a poet’s output.  This collection is the author’s own selection from his prolific writing over those years.  In his foreword he explains his choices as being almost exclusively from his published works, being those that still ‘hold their ground’ (my words) and remain his choice of poems that he wishes to include.   (As simple as that).  He further says that most are unaltered since publication but his notes for those that have been are included at the end of the book.  Mike Doyle collects here  some 337 poems which he reckons to be a third of his realisable output to 2010.  A couple of short collections have been published since.  The given notes are personal and quite fulsome on changes made, they also include brief notes on titles published. Within these notes is included an interview with Mike Doyle by Charles Lillard who included it in Intimate Absences, a selection of Mike Doyle poetry published in 1993.

Mike Doyle, born of Irish parents, Birmingham 1928, grew up around London. After serving in the Royal Navy he was posted to then moved to New Zealand with a subsequent move  to Canada in 1968 as a professor at the University of Victoria, B.C. where he still lives.  Two collections have been published since this 2010 publication.

Again, may I refer you to the Malahat Review for fuller details http://www.malahatreview.ca/reviews/181reviews_bradley.html

The poems are arranged in order of publication, under the heading of what volume they come from.  The beauty of this is that we are given the dates so most likely the poems will have been written or adjusted in the  gaps between.  Not a sure-fire guarantee but at least a likely framework. Mike Doyle himself says that the poems show his change of style from early works to progress into more experimental areas of writing which continued his overall development.  He finally found himself settling into his own style of writing in which he is perhaps now most comfortable. This does not mean ‘staid’!  He uses the word ‘momentum’ for his poetry and this is what carries you throughout the book.  I haven’t read it completely yet, I am dipping, deeply.   The quality, the quantity and diversity of a single voice melding through the years and seasons takes time to absorb.   He takes simple events, meetings and scraps of images that tap into your own memories or create layers of thought.

Mike Doyle has included eight poems from Splinter of Glass, the first (only) of his collections I have read and reviewed.  Three poems I picked out are in this book, Winter BeachSplinter of Glass and Empirical History.  Personally I would have liked one or two others included in Collected Poems  but then I don’t really mind as I have them already.  The problem for me is that I usually select only up to five of the ones I like best from this book to recommend here.  I reluctantly decline.  My excuse being that I haven’t finished reading the Collected Works of Mike Doyle.  Anyway, the poems’ titles are not always what they seem and it wouldn’t help; you have to read the verse.

I opened the book middling and found myself on page 250, exactly in the middle of the 500 pages of poetry and notes. Chose, without reading, the one on lower left hand page, and include it for the review:

Winter’s Over

Eventually, after all, the tulips

commandeer the landscape,

flagging their conquest.


Discarding a sweater, he finds

even the little chill

licking his ribs delicious.


On such a day, the sky’s

endless blue silhouettes him.

He does not notice


the fly tickling the back

of one pink hand, the spider

spinning inside his skull.

Above this is in the book is a poem titled: Prior to Landing and on the right hand page one entitled: Adam at Evening, which flows onto a second page.    These three, admittedly only partially, illustrate the range ( if you could read all three!) and subtlety of thought and language behind each poem.  Often you see clearly the story in images with rhythm which has nuance, cadence in the words and line rather than rhyme.  Throughout the collection, as with this poem randomly included, we frequently find a line, a change of direction that makes you hesitate and reframe the whole reasoning for the poem.  There are often depths that need exploration.

Titles, contents, arrangements in this collection offer everything to a reader of modern and contemporary poetry.    Since his first published collection Mike Doyle seems to have been exploring his own mind of events, current and in memory, whilst also moving along and into innovative poetic styles concurrent around him over the years.  Maybe he feels he has reached a more settled point in his writing now but rest assured there will always be that certain element that lifts him above the mainstream.

I have picked out these as good examples in addition to ones above…………but there are plenty more:

Massage with gladiator oil.        The blue door.       At Creel.        Touchpaper!,       Bella

After my enthusiasm to dip and delve for this review, I promise I will start at page one and proceed with joy!

This is a must-have ‘bonus book’ for any reader of poetry, if you can get your hands on a copy.   I think it will  even supplant my last favourite to become my current Desert Island Book.


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