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This review is taken from PN Review 32, Volume 9 Number 6, July - August 1983.

DOORS IN THE WALL Charles Boyle: House of Cards (Carcanet) £3.25

A great many voices contend in Charles Boyle's second collection. 'White Russian' is reminiscent of Andrew Motion's earlier work; 'Bed and Breakfast', 'A Visit to the Big House' and 'Newly Marrieds in the Second-hand Cookery Section' recall some Christopher Reid, especially in statements like 'The sun, as usual, has the last word' or such a pun as 'immaculate confections'; the ending of 'Stranger on a Train' is similar to that of Wallace Stevens's 'Snowman'; 'The Hunt' might have been written by that astonishingly non-existent poet of the late 1950s, Ted Gunn; 'The Arabian Bird' reads as if Boyle had added some of Gunn's 'The Wound' to a recollection of Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi'; and at least five poems, and in particular two excellent pieces, 'A Small Town on the Coast' and 'Cairo Night-Club', might almost have come from Michael Hofmann's pen. All the more fascinating, then, that what survives this apparently panic-stricken quest for a voice is a very real sense of role and self: for all the echoes or, if they are not echoes, suggestions, Boyle's presence is strong and unambiguous in his work.

Charles Boyle confronts a flow of experience with a sense of being an outsider and yet unpuzzled, of assessing the torrent that tears present into past with a fear, yes, of being himself borne away, but with a mildly ironic tempting of fate that is finally imperturbable. Thus many poems find him outside houses, watching or being watched; and the yearning ...


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