Kirby Doyle

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::

Kirby Doyle (November 27, 1932 - April 14, 2003) was a poet in the New American Poetry movement, the so-called "third generation" of American modernist poets. He was also one of the San Francisco Renaissance poets who preceded the Beat poets and laid the groundwork for Beat poetry in San Francisco. His name is sometimes associated with Beat poetry. Doyle was also a novelist.

Doyle was born Stanton Doyle in San Francisco. An Army veteran, Doyle was pursuing art and culinary studies at San Francisco State University when he published several poems in the school's literary magazine. This led to his association with Robert Duncan, Lew Welch, and Kenneth Rexroth, the founders of the New American Poetry movement. These poets stressed the directness of the spoken word over formal poetry.

In the late 1950s, Doyle wrote Sapphobones, a collection of playful and evocative love poems, which cemented his literary reputation (Words like mad exotic birds fluttering / from my thorax / whipping my speech -- moist and gaudy feathers / gone from my lips upward...). His work appeared alongside that of Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg in the Spring, 1958 issue of Chicago Review, which was devoted to "San Francisco Renaissance" writers. Several of his poems were published on broadsheets by the Communication Company, the publishing arm of the Diggers.

Although his work maintained the directness of colloquial speech, it could also be lyrical and rhapsodic. Doyle's poems were sometimes humorous.

Doyle suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction for much of his life. He was a mainstay of the North Beach literary scene in San Francisco, and lived for long stretches of time on communes near Mount Tamalpais. The poet Michael McClure said of him: "He was a handsome, big-smiled Irish American rascal. He was an original Beat, loose-jointed, with a great laugh. His poetry was beautiful stuff."

Poem To A Mountain Girl
...and in your sleep I awake here,
have eaten an orange
have gone to the creek and bathed
listening to its thin and liquid speech
its joy to run so free and clean
Now, returning to this ragged tent
sanctuary to your sleep, your real sleep,
I wish for you waking
so that we together could take cool pause
at the hidden pond I found down stream
our bodies quick and chilled
by the water,
our bodies breathing - holding
Now, as pen point and shadow
touch this page
I look up almost stunned to
know that from your sleep you have loved me.
and from my awakening I have loved you back


  • 1 List of works
  • 2 Recordings
  • 3 Further reading
  • 4 External links

List of works

  • Sapphobones (Poets Press, 1966)
  • Ode to John Garfield (Communication Company, 1967)
  • Angel Faint (Communication Company, 1968; Deep Forest, 1991)
  • Happiness Bastard (Essex House, 1968; a novel)
  • The Collected Poems of Kirby Doyle (Greenlight Press, 1983)
  • After Olson (Deep Forest, 1984)
  • The Questlock: Gymnopaean of A. Dianaei O'Tamal (Deep Forest, 1987)
  • Lyric Poems (City Lights, 1988)
  • Crime, Justice & Tragedy and Das Erde Profundus (Deep Forest, 1989)
  • Pre American Ode (unpublished)
  • White Flesh (unpublished; novel)


  • Howls, Raps & Roars: Recordings from the San Francisco poetry renaissance (compilation) (Universal Music Group, 1963; Fantasy Records 1993). Click HERE to listen to Doyle read Angel Faint from this compilation (you must have Windows Media Player).

Further reading

  • Phillips, Rod. Forest Beatniks and Urban Thoreaus. Peter Lang Publishing (2000).
  • Friday memorial for Kirby Doyle -- Beat writer, poet, an obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Kirby Doyle and the Snows of Yesteryear, remembrances of Doyle by Michael McClure in the magazine Cento.
  • Remembrances of Kirby Doyle by McClure, Peter Coyote, T. Walden, Philomene Long and John Thomas, and Claude Hayward.
  • Kirby Doyle (1932-2003), remembrance of Doyle by Jack Foley
  • "Of all the poets included in the watershed..." reflections on the poetry of Doyle (August 2006) by Ron Silliman
  • Ode to John Garfield, a Doyle poem published by the Diggers
  • Photo of Doyle (on right) with Billy Batman
  • This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
    under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
    or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
    with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
    A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
    Free Documentation License".