Peter Boyle (b. 1951) grew up in Melbourne and Sydney, graduating from Sydney University specialising in Philosophy and Literature. He began writing poetry at age 15 but it was not until 42 that his first collection of poetry Coming home from the world
(1994) appeared, receiving the National Book Council Award and the New South Wales Premier's Award. A second collection The Blue Cloud of Crying
(1997) won the South Australian Festival Award. Boyle has read his poetry at Festivals in Paris, Medellin and Caracas, and his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in the US, the UK, Singapore, China, France, and other countries.
Boyle is often drawn in his poetry towards moments of transformation when the painful or bewildering is balanced by beauty and tenderness. The title poem of his third collection, What the painter saw in our faces
(2001), juxtaposes a lush Poussin painting of Orpheus and Eurydice with scenes of a city - perhaps Belgrade or Baghdad- under relentless bombardment, interweaving the story of a failed love affair to raise questions of personal and collective responsibility. Notions of change, the erasure of identity and the transfiguration of everyday life are expressed in 'The Transformation Boat', where the speaker longs for the moment when "our hands, wiped clean of every line,/could begin at last their journey to the sun."
While some of his poems are complex meditations, others are marked by directness and simplicity, as in the poem 'Paralysis' recording his earliest memory of childhood. According to poet Judith Beveridge Boyle's poems "move us forward into a space where our mortal lives can be viewed with compassion and depth".
Museum of Space
(2004) marks a shift towards a more inward, dream-like content, where the extraordinary can reveal human destructiveness and ineptitude. 'Apologising to Unicorns' imagines ourselves as unicorns might see us, with "our uncertainty of ourselves, our not belonging, our poor talent for letting the miraculous be." In contrast the long trans-genre work The Apocrypha of William O'Shaunessy
(2009) creates a tapestry of heteronymous prose and poetry, which, in poet and critic Michael Brennan's words, achieves "a prodigious reimagining and so reinvention . . . of the foundations of Western thought".
For many years Boyle has taught language skills to students from a diverse range of countries and cultures. His interest in the possibilities of language is also reflected in his translations of French and Spanish poets, notably Pierre Reverdy, René Char, Federico García Lorca, César Vallejo and the Venezuelan Eugenio Montejo.
In his reading Boyle gets voluptuously to the inside of words, so they have something of an operatic quality, that reminds us, that after all, English, and more particularly Boyle's English is a Romance language. Throughout all these poems there is a calm voice, which easily conveys complex emotions. There is something nearly synaesthetic in the way listening to sounds convert so quickly and strongly into image and feeling.
The audio poems were recorded on 7 January 2008 in Sydney, Australia for the River Road Poetry Series. Producer: Carol Jenkins. The Transformation Boat
is available from www.riverroadpress.net/
1992 Wesley Michael Wright Poetry Prize
1994 National Book Council 'Banjo' Award
1995 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award
1997 National Book Council 'Banjo' Award
1998 South Australia Festival Award for Poetry