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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A Splinter of Glass by (Charles) Mike Doyle, Review

A Splinter of Glass,    Poems 1951-55

Charles Doyle

The Pegasus Press, New Zealand. 1956

From a signed copy, with the words:    “‘One end of a business deal!’   Mike Doyle.”

Note: the authors name on the title page is as Charles Doyle but he is more regularly published as Mike Doyle.

This is his first published book, a collection of 23 poems, the title one ‘ A Splinter of Glass’ is divided into seven sections.

The flap states he is Irish but other notes say he was born of Irish parents, in Birmingham, England.     Born 1928, served in the Royal Navy 1946 to 1954. Visited New Zealand in 1951 settled there after the Navy and became a school teacher.  Co- founded, co -edited ‘Numbers’.    The poem Splinter of Glass was granted the Jessie MacKay Memorial Award in 1955.

He settled in New Zealand for a few years then moved to Canada and remained there.  Now retired from his university in Victoria B.C..    He has had several books published on poetics as well as collections of poems, none as far as I can find published in the U.K..   All seem to be out of print currently.  This is a shame as I would like to set my hands on his ‘Collected Poems 1951 – 2009’  by Ekstasis in which he selected about a third of his then extant work for publication. There have been a couple of collections listed since then but again seem difficult to find at a price I can cope with, especially as they reside in Canada or the USA.

Poetry is massively written, massively read but not easily (economically) published throughout the English Speaking World as the purchasing public is so small.  As in fiction, only a small number of authors get published and an even smaller percentage become popular and have any sensible income.  Of course, as in all aspects of the Arts, or just Life, there are stellar successes which seem impossible.   Almost hidden from view may be as many good or better artists.  The trust and the hope is that those hidden gems will at some time see the light of day and find their space in that good old ‘firmament’.

I diverge, sorry, bad habit.

See Malahat Review website for review of collected poems by Mike Doyle

Winter Beach, the first poem moves from the rose-tint of summer memory as unreality.  Halfway through prods at the harshness of winter before relenting briefly, like an ‘Indian Summer’ before revealing the explosion of a winter storm.    Here is description with several layers for peeling and picking.      A Sea Change is the next poem.  The two are connected by the sea but here we immediately have a different style, rhythm and tone with little punctuation and elements of dislocation.  Ninth line before a punctuation stop where the explanation is found as to why images are solid though yet a little blurred.   If you look you find a little rhyme and some half-rhymes and numerous other poetic nuances but save that for later. Reading is the important element.   Here is a short poem written by a man in his mid-twenties, published sixty years ago, that catches emotion and story in a poem that re-reads again and again.     The poem in question:

A Sea Change

In the estuary as the trawlers sail

their salt fish up to the scuppers laden

the wharves black wet in the brawling winter gale

all that land but the heart’s acres hidden

in hangdog weather the cuff of the sea’s sleeve

ruffled and the waves hands plucking

greedily at the sand the squat sheds grieving

silent as empty churches and the wreck

two days now fast in the shadowy fathoms.

Only the divers simple messages come up

monotonous, moving, final as a requiem,

and the tides take hope out surely on the ebb.

…………..

This poet, in his first collection shows a great depth of artistry and storytelling.  This  suggests a passion, restlessness of mind and an overall melancholia that seems to accompany him.  Eight years in the Royal Navy must have given him the time and experiences to develop his poetic style and self.  He said he started writing poetry at about the age of thirteen but only at twenty three to feel some satisfaction with his work.  This first collection gives confirmation to his belief of himself and his poetry.

Reading through this book you might feel the touches of other poets echoing into your mind, for me it was often Dylan Thomas.   Whether they are your own bias in echoes of other poets or Doyle’s is moot.  What is important is the overall tales that slice through the series of images, often one that is unusual, as the circumstance of the pictures are powerful yet stated factually.

A Splinter of Glass, the title poem, in seven parts, seems a personal story of moving to and meeting with  ‘New World’ of New Zealand.

The main theme is surely the sea and distance, with the seasons weighed heavily by ‘black winter’ and loss/ death.

The poems, Old Maid and The Tower fill,the part of ‘simplest’  and more formal  than many while  A Window in the World and the last poem, Empirical History, both dip a toe into the metaphysical: of the Universe, its origins and Man’s place.

A Splinter of Glass is poetry of its day but fulfills its role still.  As a first collection it is assured and a voice with plenty to say.  My favourite poems have been picked out in the text above. I look forward to getting my hands on more of Mike Doyle’s work.

And for those keen to see the years roll by and a poet still enjoying life, just go to You Tube and type in:  Mike Doyle’s book launch part 5  

Book launch parts 1 to 6 are also available.

Mike Doyle: A Splinter of Glass

Mike Doyle:  A Splinter of Glass

I found this in a local Cambridge bookshop.   Now I am finding out a bit more about the author and his other writing.   Born in Birmingham, UK and moved to New Zealand after the Royal Navy then settled a second time in Canada; Victoria B.C..

The poems in this ‘early book’ are pretty interesting, would love to read more from later and recent work.

There is a review of his ‘Colleceted Poems’ and information in the Malahat Review 

I will have to stick with the one book I have as his most recent collection ( Collected Poems 1951-2009) seems impossible to find in the UK  (at least at an affordable price)  ah well, keep on searching!  I believe there are two later short collections published also.  A poet published in New Zealand and Canada but not Internationally is hard to find.   I think I might have to try harder!