When Denis Doyle arrived in Japan in 1987, he brought with him the manuscript of The Rhododendron Forest, consisting mostly of poems written in the previous few years in and about Cornwall. The book was published in Tokyo by Printed Matter Press in 1991, but has long been out of print. Added to this new, revised edition of The Rhododendron Forest is Doyle’s translation – first published by North Light Press in England in 1982 – of the first (prose) and third (poetic) versions of the narrative La Tierra de Alvargonzalez, a key work by Antonio Machado (1875–1939).
Combining sharp observation and an individual lyrical voice, the poems in The Rhododendron Forest display a deep sensitivity to the landscapes, seascapes, flora and fauna of Cornwall – with excursions to Spain, an imagined St Petersburg, the scriptorium of a medieval monastery, and into memories of the romantic bafflements of a Catholic adolescence. The Machado translations faithfully capture the exalted simplicity and tragic ballad-tale quality of La Tierra de Alvargonzalez, written by Machado in 1912 during a period of intense personal crisis.
Denis Doyle writes: ‘A long time ago I decided that my book of poems would be called The Rhododendron Forest – although I still haven’t written a poem with that title. It comes from a childhood memory. On my way home from school in Devon, I used to walk down a road with high rhododendron hedges on both sides. Sometimes I imagined that behind the trees there were no houses, just vast areas of wild open land. I have never forgotten the strange empty feeling the thought gave me; I associate it with the way I feel when a poem first comes into my mind.’
January 2014. Paperback. 78 pages. 8.5 x 5.5. ISBN 978-4-907359-03-4.
Click here to download a PDF excerpt from The Rhododendron Forest.
Click here to see a video of Denis Doyle in his living room in Llantwit Major, Wales, reading ‘Early Call’, ‘The Road from Fir Hill’, and ‘Lines’ from The Rhododendron Forest .
Click here to see a video of Denis Doyle’s son, Francis Doyle, reading ‘The Gorsefield’, ‘Dark Green’, and ‘The Goose Gospel’ from The Rhododendron Forest at the launch of the book in Tokyo in January 2014.
Click here to buy The Rhododendron Forest from the London Review Bookshop.