DOYLE, Charles




Author Tags: Literary Criticism, Poetry, Politics

Charles Doyle also writes as Mike Doyle. He is a New Zealander who was born in London, England of Irish descent. He came to Victoria in 1968 after a year in Connecticut, and became a longtime resident of Victoria where he taught at UVic, founding a little poetry magazine called Tuatara in 1969.

With Robert Sward, Doyle co-authored a chapbook called Quorum/Noah, published in Victoria in 1970. With P.K. Page he co-authored a chapbook called Planes in 1975. Although chiefly concerned with literature, and a poet, he co-edited two books on B.C. politics, The New Reality (1984) and After Bennett (1986).

Doyle's first poetry collection, A Splinter of Glass (1956), was published in New Zealand; his first Canadian collection is Earth Meditations (Coach House, 1971). Doyle reviewed for Canadian Literature from 1972 to the mid-1980s. As Charles Doyle he has written a biography of Richard Aldington and critical work on William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, James K. Baxter and others.

Doyle has written about his own work as a writer by annotating a diary of his literary life from 1969 to 2006 in Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics (Ekstasis 2007).

"As a sketchy memoir, it does not avoid a certain amount of ego-tripping and name-dropping; after all I haven't lived in a vacuum, but in a world where one must fend for oneself."

Some of the names dropped include Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, George Woodcock, Earle Birney, bill bissett and literally dozens of other fellow poets in Canada. Some of Doyle's observations of writers, offhandedly made at the time, gather historical weight with the passage of time. For instance, one entry made in 1974:

"Milton Acorn gave a 'performance' at UVic this midday. Anything more designed to discredit 'Canadian literature' can hardly be imagined. I've read I've Tasted My Blood and reviewed it with sympathy. Also contributed to the special award the poets got up for him. His face ugly, somewhat misshapen, has the high colour and rough texture of a boozer's. His eye glaucous, bloodshot, his teeth a mouthful of rotten discoloured stumps. He mumbled irrelevancies and stray remarks of a vaguely Maoist nature. Incoherent, deadly dull, nearly inaudible. I believe he 'performed' one poem at the end of an interminable dithyramble, but by then I had left. I had persuaded my first-year students to go hear him. Tomorrow, must offer humble apologies. Dorothy Livesay, under whose aegis he appeared, must have been embarrassed. Anyone would be."

Although Doyle's engaging comments made in the present-tense, as well as retrospectively, do provide glimpses of his personality, collectively they reveal that the task of becoming an established poet in any country has as much do with making mutually-supportive connections with other poets as it has to do with writing poetry.

Doyle retired in 1993 after 35 years as an academic but has continued to write. He once wrote, "I'm a poor self-publicist and there's a certain Zenlike satisfaction in nonentity."

In 2015, Doyle released his memoir, Floating Islands (Ekstasis) that recalls his Irish family background, his childhood and youth in London during the World War II, through the blitz. At age fourteen, he decided he wished to be a poet. As a high school dropout, he joined the British Royal Navy and was posted to Wellington, New Zealand. Two years later, his first serious poems were published in the quarterly Landfall. Doyle gained several degrees that landed him a lectureship at Auckland University.

His first poetry collection, A Splinter of Glass, received several awards, including a UNESCO Creative Artist’s Fellowship, which enabled him to spend months travelling
in the United States with the object of meeting American writers. A Fellowship of the American Council of Learned Societies enabled Doyle to spend a year as a visiting fellow in American Studies at Yale University, during which he wrote a book on the career of American poet William Carlos Williams and the book-length poem sequence, Earth Meditations, which later became his first Canadian book, published by Coach House Press, Toronto. Doyle has also received a PEN New Zealand award.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
After Bennett: A New Politics for British Columbia

BOOKS:

A Splinter of Glass : Poems 1951-1955. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1956.

Distances : Poems. Auckland: Paul's Book Arcade, 1963.

Messages for Herod. Auckland: Collins, 1965.

Recent Poetry in New Zealand. Chosen and edited by Charles Doyle. Auckland: Collins, 1965.

A Sense of Place : Poems. Wellington: Wai-te-ata Press, 1965.

Small Prophets and Quick Returns: Reflections on New Zealand Poetry. Auckland: New Zealand Publishing Society, 1966.

Earth Meditations 2. Auckland: Charles Alldritt, 1968.

R.A.K. Mason. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1970.

Earth Meditations: One to Five. Illustrations by Jack Kidder. Toronto : Coach House Press, 1971.

Preparing for the Ark. Toronto: Weed Flower Press, 1973.

James K. Baxter. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1976.

Stonedancer. Auckland: Auckland University Press ; Wellington : Oxford University Press, 1976.

William Carlos Williams: the Critical Heritag. Edited by Charles Doyle. London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980.

William Carlos Williams and the American Poem. London: Macmillan, 1982.

A Steady Hand. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1983.
Reviews

The New Reality: The Politics of Restraint in British Columbia (New Star Books, 1984). Co-editor and contributor.

Wallace Stevens: the Critical Heritage. Edited by Charles Doyle. London ; Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.

After Bennett: A New Politics for B.C. (New Star Books, Vancouver 1986). Co-editor.

Richard Aldington: a Biography. Basingstoke, Hants. : Macmillan, 1989. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.

The Urge to Raise Hats (Victoria, 1989)

Richard Aldington: Reappraisals. Edited by Charles Doyle. Victoria: English Literary Studies, University of Victoria, 1990.

Separate Fidelities (Victoria, 1991)

Intimate Absences: Selected Poems 1954-1992. Victoria: Beach Holme, 1993)

Where to Begin (Ekstasis, 2000)

Living Ginger (Ekstasis, 2004) - poetry

Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics (Ekstasis, 2007).

The Watchman’s Dance: Poems 2004-2009 (Ekstasis 2010) $21.95 - poetry

Collected Poems 1951-2009 (Ekstasis, 2011)

Echoes from Pluto: Poems 2009-2013 (Ekstasis 2014) $23.95 978-1-77171-004-6

Riding the Pig: more notes on poetics (Ekstasis 2014)

Floating Islands (Ekstasis 2015). $25.95

[BCBW 2015] "Poetry" "Literary Criticism" "Politics"

Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics
Review



Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics by Mike Doyle (Ekstasis $19.95)

Time reduces history or magnifies it. Poet and UVic professor Mike Doyle’s annotated diary of his literary life in British Columbia since 1969, Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics, is a rare magnifier for the lower Vancouver Island literary scene.

Some of Doyle’s observations of writers, offhandedly made at the time, gather historical weight due to their natural candour.

For instance, having favourably reviewed Milton Acorn’s I’ve Tasted My Blood and contributed to a special award to honour Acorn, Doyle recorded a disastrous midday reading by Milton Acorn at UVic in 1974.

“His face ugly, somewhat misshapen, has the high colour and rough texture of a boozer’s,” Doyle writes. “His eye glaucous, bloodshot, his teeth a mouthful of rotten discoloured stumps. He mumbled irrelevancies and stray remarks of a vaguely Maoist nature.

“Incoherent, deadly dull, nearly inaudible. I believe he ‘performed’ one poem at the end of an interminable dithyrambl, but by then I had left. I had persuaded my first-year students to go hear him. Tomorrow, must offer humble apologies. Dorothy Livesay, under whose aegis he appeared, must have been embarrassed. Anyone would be.”
More sympathetically, Doyle offers a candid assessment of a wake for poet, critic and anthologist, Charles ‘Red’ Lillard at the home of Robin Skelton in 1997. Again, it is the jotted down, fly-on-the-wall honesty of Doyle’s perspective that appeals.

“The large Victoria Avenue house [was] full,” he writes. “[There were] many readers and speakers, including George Payerle, Susan Musgrave, Theresa Kishkan and her husband John Pass, Marilyn Bowering, Patrick Lane, several of whom I like, though I am close to none. A moving occasion though some banal poetry. A bit of dopey by-play, celebrat-ing John Barleycorn, spitting into the wind.

“Saw Diana Hayes, P.K. [Page], Phyllis Webb (all to talk with, I mean) and many others, including Rona Murray and Walter Dexter. For Charles’ sake, and Rhonda’s, I’m glad this happened; there were plenty of tears. Charles, after all, was a good man, a nexus of good happenings in the writing community. Glad to be there, I liked him and he was helpful to my work.

“Insofar as there is a community, I always feel on a remote edge. Rilke said, ‘Love your loneliness’; I do, for the most part. Charles will be missed, though, not least by me.”
Some of the names dropped include Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Carlos Williams, George Woodcock, Earle Birney, bill bissett and literally dozens of other poets.

“As a sketchy memoir,” Doyle admits, “it does not avoid a certain amount of ego-tripping and name-dropping; after all I haven’t lived in a vacuum, but in a world where one must fend for oneself.” 978-1-897430-05-7


[BCBW 2008] "Poetry"