Charles Boyle was born in Leeds, and worked in for a long time in publishing, including fourteen years at Faber and Faber. He is the author of six collections of poetry: Affinities (1977), House of Cards (1983), Sleeping Rough (1987), The Very Man (1993; all Carcanet), Paleface (1996), and The Age of Cardboard and String (2001; both Faber), the last of which he is probably best known for. Reviewing in the Guardian, Nicholas Lezard called the book “quite beguiling: completely unpretentious yet still resonant and lyrical; linguistically precise and emotionally evasive, often at the same time.” Boyle has also published a novella, 24 for 3 (Bloomsbury, 2008) under the pseudonym Jennie Walker, and a book of photographs and brief texts, Days and Nights in W12, under the pseudonym Jack Robinson. The Manet Girl, a collection of stories, was published under his own name in 2013 by Salt Publishing. In 2007, as a result of his difficulty in getting 24 for 3 published, Boyle established CB Editions, a small press dedicated to novellas, translations, and writing in other genres often neglected by mainstream publishers.

Boyle’s poems often describe an apparently everyday sort of reality, in a city closely resembling London, yet their landscapes are disconcertingly fluid and even dream-like. The voice of these poems  – urbane, elusive, dryly humorous – retains a casual distance from the events and scenes it relays, a little like a camera making a tracking shot, while details appear within its field of view at unexpected junctures, as if we are navigating a recognisable environment along altogether strange plot-points. A highly tuned sense of irony, and a resistance to easy meaning, guides these unusual and memorable forays, following their own peculiarly apt logic, whereby a person can be identified by their disguise, and a row of parked cars is revealed to be the easiest route to the river.


This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 17 October 2013 at ID Audio and was produced by John Green.

Poems by Charles Boyle

The Disguise - Charles Boyle
Events with Parked Cars - Charles Boyle
The Big Idea - Charles Boyle
Charles Boyle in the Poetry Store

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Books by Charles Boyle



Cholmondeley Award

Prize website

McKitterick Prize for 24 for 3 (as Jennie Walker)

Prize website