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Kevin Boyle

Kevin Boyle

Kevin Boyle was born and grew up in Philadelphia, receiving his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. He attended graduate school at Boston University and the University of Iowa. Kevin Boyle's poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, Alaska Quarterly, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. His chapbook, The Lullaby of History, won the Mary Belle Campbell Poetry Book Prize and was published in 2002. Boyle teaches at Elon University in North Carolina where he lives with his wife and two daughters.


A Home for Wayward Girls

A Home for Wayward GirlsA Home for Wayward Girls

$14.00 paper | 93 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-930974-49-4
Publication Date: April 2005
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Winner of the 2004 New Issues Poetry Prize
Judge: Rodney Jones

"Kevin Boyle's poems are ambitious in form, theme, and style, but never merely egotistical. When they are not singing with a full-throated, operatic grace, they are telling memorable stories. But more than that, they answer Milosz's primary challenge for the poetry of our era: they come off as the poetry of only one person. And they do it passionately. A Home for Wayward Girls is a book for grown-ups: charmed, elegant, learned, and wise. It does not read like a project or even faintly resemble a first book. It seems the natural outgrowth of a sensitive and intelligent life."
        —Rodney Jones, Judge

"There are few poets writing today for whom the natural world and the world of the body are so powerful and real. In Kevin Boyle's poems it seems, often, that the creation not only is there, and trustworthy, and to be reckoned with, but that it wants us back, that it is taking us back into it, that the forces we call history or culture are its longest arm, that its grasp is horrific and that we call it joy. Amazing work."
        —Jorie Graham

"Kevin Boyle’s poems are striking for their steadfast desire to soak themselves in the often inexpressible feelings and thoughts that lie at the heart of everyday life. They are alive in the way all real poetry is alive—through a finely tuned syntax that both controls and surprises. His subject matter reminds me a bit of James Wright and Richard Hugo. It wants to say what it's like to be a grown man, a moral man, in a world of choices and consequences. Like those poets, he is most interested in our lyric psychology— 'the back story' that hums through our wiring. This work is filled with an affection and humor that are thoroughly unsentimental. These are smart, moving poems by a writer who deserves our attention."
        —David Rivard

"Kevin Boyle's poems are edgy and sometimes gritty as they cut to the bone of human experience—love, fatherhood, and work. These stunning poems offer the sweep of history as well as the inward gaze. Like many of our favorite Irish and Irish-American poets, Boyle is a great storyteller, and narratives and incidents he records in the poems are unforgettable. The beautiful surfaces of his work often serve to make the water appear safe for the reader—all the while peril reigns below."
        —Stuart Dischell


Wayward Girls

for Steve

It must have been a corporal work of mercy, akin
to visiting the sick or burying the dead, our visit
to the Home for Wayward Girls, a busload of us taken
away from our thoughts of girls to girls ridiculously
uniformed in dresses their bodies made their own.
We didn’t cast lots, but I turned away from my back-
of-the-bus group to slow dance with a girl so wayward
I felt my head slip from resting against her hair and
I began to speak in tongues with her, quietly, the gist
of the Holy Ghost upon us, she brushing so much of her body
against mine I thought my good suit would catch fire.
“Slow down,” she repeated. “Dance like the niggers dance.”
I imitated that bend of the body, the swish of leg
into dress, the close press of my right hand sifting
dress and buttock skin through it, my chest joining
the draw of her chest, and over punch, during the two
fast songs we stood still through to find ourselves again,
she spoke of nothing but music, no hint of abandonment or abuse.
During the last dance, as the DJ said, “Last dance before
the bus leaves, before you’re back in bed,” she said,
as she lifted her lips away from my neck and its tattoo
for the morning, “You’re not half bad. Come back again.”
I looked her almost in the eye, imagined myself palming
her head and stroking her neck-long hair she said they cut
to size, and with my hands at my side said, “I’d like that.”
In the bus windows we could see ourselves, altar boys
returning to the rigors of discipline, our looks groomed
the way we edged our lawns or whipped the dogs who let
loose, and over the bad mike at the front of the bus,
the priest said, “God will bless you for your kindness.
Remember them, boys, in your prayers.”