Poet Kirby Doyle at City Lights Books in 1980

Kirby Doyle in City Lights basement during publication
party and reading in 1980 for Allen Cohen's book The Reagan Poems.

Kirby Doyle

Beat era poet and writer whose lyrical, evocative verses and brutal, bleakly humorous prose made him a mainstay of the North Beach literary scene.

Kirby, 70, passed on April 5, 2003 at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco after a long illness.

He was a handsome, big-smiled Irish American rascal, his longtime friend and fellow poet Michael McClure recalled.

He was an original Beat, loose- jointed, with a great
laugh. His poetry was beautiful stuff.

In the 1950s he was a culinary school student and an art major at San Francisco State University when he began dashing off poetry for the college literary magazine and several small reviews. In the late 1950s, he wrote a highly acclaimed set of 36 brief love poems published under the title SAPPHOBONES.

Words like mad exotic birds fluttering/from my thorax/
whipping my speech -- moist and gaudy feathers/
gone from my lips upward --
he wrote.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kirby stopped writing for long periods, living alone on Mount Tamalpais and battling drug and alcohol addictions In later years, Kirby worked on an epic poem titled Pre American Ode and a novella titled White Flesh.

Source: Steve Rubenstein, SFGate

Kirby Doyle, Sapphobones poetry collection

Link: Michael McClure and Peter Coyote remember Kirby Doyle at Empty Mirror

The (A)wake

by Allen Cohen

Great surprising event especially Kirby's daughter, Kelley, speaking of her view of Kirby as both icon and psychotic - Michael McClure about Kirby's pad in 57 near Batman Gallery, everyone grabbed onto a different part of the elephant and so we saw Kirby in all his facets.

I spoke of his interactions of his days with me at the Oracle and read from an article he wrote for the Oracle - In prose he wrote like he talked so it was very direct and he ended his article with a short very direct uncluttered Chinese-style poem:

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

© Kirby Doyle