To read a poem by Stephen Boyce is to step into a physical location – with landscapes rendered in tactile detail, trees in particular coming as vividly alive as people. Whether drawing on present experience, memory, visual art or reading, he makes it real, in a seamless weave of thought, perception and emotion.
These poems are exquisitely crafted, woven together with subtle cadences, half rhymes,delicious details, unexpected similes. Yet beneath their elegance and grace lies a deeply felt humanity, a passion and gratitude for nature, landscape, enduring love, that is all the more profound for being understated and beautifully contained.
The natural world is often the touchstone of these elegant and supple lyrics. Poems that hinge on a bird or a tree offer up small epiphanies which illuminate the parallel journeys of the human creature. These are poems of tenderness and quiet beauty that know just how little needs to be said.
These poems have such a delicacy and beauty, and collectively a sense of quiet mystery... a lovely collection and one that's going to invite many re-readings.
I've very much enjoyed The Blue Tree. It's full of all the things I admire in your work – and your attention to detail is still splendid. No-one else I have ever read has made me exclaim over a description of gravel! Wonderful!
I love the sudden depths, the telling details, the poignancy – this is a powerful collection all the better for working on the reader from a place of real, deep attention. [The Blue Tree is] so readable because of the depths it reveals in the seemingly familiar.
Graeme Ryan (Fire River Poets)
Boyce is at his best when he is writing about the natural world...well-crafted, atmospheric poems of quiet beauty and inner strength.
Neil Leadbeater Write Out Loud
Boyce is rightly confident, especially in his approach to sonnet form. This gives a flexible, supple feel to the collection; it never settles into the predictable.....[he] allows his poems the time they need; he doesn't force the pace. In this collection he travels widely and perceptively, and with assurance.
DA Prince, South
Stephen Boyce's highly individual voice is best evidenced in the first two sections of The Sisyphus Dog, which juxtaposes his father's letters and war mementos against wider locations, in this way considering his own sense of place and self, giving us a subtle take on the human condition...
The section 'Marking the Place' provides an increasingly subtle take on the marks we make in life... This section shifts to a deceptively simple clarity and plain diction, where the landscape becomes the page on which we write and our lives the marks we make.
Belinda Cooke, The North
The poems of Stephen Boyce have an enviable assurance: clear, well crafted, and precise, they have an air of knowing where they are going, and invariably find their destination in an elegant closure. He is a master of the simple but telling phrase.
These poems are ‘natural’ not just in the sense that they describe nature, but also in the sense that insights emerge naturally, and they are natural also in their concerns with an everyday world treated without pretension, literary or other – and yet the half-rhymes and the cadences are all unobtrusively there at work. There’s a joy in that.
Stephen Boyce is the master of surprising similes: carriages ‘jolting like the lurch of camels’, the hole in a sock ‘like a tonsured head’, a face ‘red as a pomegranate flower’. Written with considerable poetic skill and emotional warmth, his perceptive cameos of lives, nature and art are finely-tuned. The Sisyphus Dog augments Stephen Boyce's rapidly growing reputation admirably.
A complex, resonant and really dense collection. I especially like what you do with the passage of time – shifting tensions.
This collection’s great strength lies in the poet’s use of physical detail in crafting his effects.
Boyce's imagery is carefully developed and the overall structure of each poem is controlled and convincing... In terms of his use of language, Boyce's work is deliberately understated and often achieves a good deal of emotional impact by these means...This is well put together and carefully honed work, solidly within the mainstream of contemporary British poetry...
David Clarke Under the Radar
Stephen Boyce's Desire Lines is an intelligent, sophisticated and formally-assured first collection – poems that are tender and evocative, passionate and wide-ranging. Highly visual, carefully detailed, and, like the 'desire lines' of the book's title, these poems map and meander, always with a feel for the music of nature and a sense of the urgency of time's passing. Boyce is a poet of erotic love and art, and this, his first collection is rich with portraits, family cameos, and meditations revealing him to be a truly exciting new voice.
There’s an ear for cadence, half-rhyme, chimes and echoes, which works as a kind of bedrock on which the poems are founded. It gives the collection a kind of voice that as a reader/listener one is always hoping for, and is one of the major strengths of the most successful poems.
Boyce’s volume does not have a dud poem in it and I like them very much... In truth there are not many volumes of modern poetry that I go back to re-read in later years: this is likely to be an exception.
Peter Keeble, South
These are wonderfully detailed yet universal poems. Moments of revelation through tiny incidents, little daily observations, sensual perceptions, open into wide perspectives seen from the corner of an eye, or rein attention back in on an awareness of self, or a lover, a place or a moment in time.