The label ‘Collected Poems’ sounds definitive, but is flexible. For some poets it has meant gathering everything they have written that manages to stay afloat; for others, a snipping off here and there of ‘poor shoots’ (watershoots, perhaps). Yet others collect those poems they consider their strongest, what they wish to be represented by posthumously. This last is my approach, though I am sceptical enough to believe that ‘posterity’ simply means an ISBN number. Over the years, like most poets I imagine, I have scrapped scores of poems. I have taken no more than a thumbnail count, but think the contents of this book represent perhaps one-third of my extant poems.
most poets whose work began so far back, my earlier poems are more obviously formal
than later ones. Although I took pains at a certain stage to loosen these forms
and even escape from them, as I look back I rejoice in them, glad I was there
for it to happen. Then, many later poems are formal in a more covert fashion,
and that too I rejoice in. It took me a long while to ‘grow up’ as
a poet, but since that happened, and gratifyingly often before it happened, what
tends to characterize my poems is momentum, a kind of momentum in which the experience
of the poem is very present even though its material and/or subject may be memory.
An earlier poet saw the poem as ‘a slice of life seen through a temperament’.
That seems right, if one adds that surprisingly often there is a mysterious element
in the perception.
Doyle is a poet, critic, biographer and editor. His other work includes William
Carlos Williams and the American Poem (1982), Richard Aldington: A Biography
(1989), Paper Trombones (2007), a journal of his life as a poet in Canada,
and Intimate Absences (1993), a “Selected Poems” from work
up to that date. He has also published critical essays on Williams, Wallace Stevens,
H.D., Irving Layton, Al Purdy and others. He has received a UNESCO Creative Artist’s
Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, a Jessie Mackay
(PEN) Award for Poetry. He wrote his book on Williams while a Research Fellow
of American Studies at Yale University.
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