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little mouse (2011)
32 poems, each in the same 20-line form, each with the same title, each speaking in a different voice. Parent or infant, exploring or fearful, oppressed or joyful, each of us will discover ourselves somewhere within these lines. For after all, which of us can say that we have never at some point felt small, gray, and capable of biting?
“From the tradition of Randall Jarrell’s bat poet comes Bill Griffins little mouse, singing us the “earth story.” Part book of psalms, part primer on the human condition, these gentle lyrics take us on a journey through the richness that is life, with all its mystery and paradox, where the dread that comes in one breath is answered by joy in the next. This is our story, and little mouse our spirit guide, offering us these “few terse squeakes that mostly have to do with yes.” Yes, I say, to these straight-to-the-heart songs. Yes to each moment that little mouse illuminates and shines back to us. Little mouse, of course, says it best: “The simplest things reveal the greatest.” This is a book to which I will return again and again, carrying it with me like a prayer or a friend.” – - - Rhett Iseman Trull, author of The Real Warnings, winner of the 2008 Anhinga Prize for poetry.
Is this the hunger squeak
that drowses up from your milky world
into ours? Or the night squeak
of cold toes pushed past
the flannel of their brothers?
Afternoon ticks away like squeaks
of cradle rocking on uneven oak,
the neighbor’s westie barks
from a distant realm. A squeak
of smile brief as sunclouds – O!
let us all sleep and wake
and sleep again to dream of little mouse
who retells the earth story
in sharp-toothed tenor, truth that swaddles
each one of us at the breast
of one mother. Slow and constant
mosslight seeps beneath our lids, we see
with lips, with tongue, with cheek,
our restless small squeakings
now quieted. And fed.
Snake Den Ridge, a Bestiary (2008)
Snake Den Ridge is a remote section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In each poem in this collection, one of the wild mountain creatures speaks its mind, from Beetle to Bear and Hawk to Salamander. Some are humorous, some plaintive, a couple are belligerent, but all are quite personal. What they have to teach us may be best expressed in these lines from the Preface (an essay on the bestiary as literary form by historian and artist Linda French Griffin): Once again literature and line drawing join in celebration of a fabulist natural world, where creatures voice moral messages potentially more urgent for humanity than isolated, personal salvation: “You are not alone. All life is one. We are in this together. For our mutual survival — and Earth’s very salvation — you must recognize and learn to appreciate this connection.”
Linda’s drawings accompany each poem and include native Appalachian flora as well. At the end of the book is a listing of all the creatures and plants mentioned in the poems or depicted, with Latin binomials.
“The animals speaking in Bill Griffin’s Snake Den Ridge might well have wandered up to your port to tell you what’s on their minds. No obviously symbolic creatures are these! Raven, Skunk, Squirrel, even Millipede speak with distinctive voices. I wanted to carry on the conversation long after the last poem!” - – - Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina Poet Laureate
This is my gift –
From Inadu Creek I leave behind
my frilly gills and climb
the spire of blue-eyed grass.
Having become a creature of air bathing
myself in dew, am I not still
a creature of water?
I invite you to discover
in each of my family our variations,
discern that every runnel, every spring,
every palm-sized cup of moisture
holds its lithe expectation, for this
is my gift to you –
to notice changes.
I will let you lightly touch
the welcome of my smoothness
while I drink a little warmth
from your hand. Now count
the dapples down my length,
measure the blush of my cheek,
then find when you descend
the eastern face of Snake Den Ridge
those subtle alterations my cousins
are accumulating until finally
they acquire a new name.
And when you have returned me
to my bed of blue-bead lily, then touch
a smooth place within yourself
and carry with you into the world
your own changes.
Changing Woman (2006)
- – - For Linda changing / and changing me. These poems explore the relationship between men and women, from the mundane to the sudden epiphany, from longing to fulfillment (and sometimes back to longing). Since there are never words for how we really feel about each other, poetry must attempt to fill the gap.
Changing Woman is a central figure in Dinetah (Navajo) creation mythology. Through her marriage to Sun all human beings emerge, but she laments to her husband: You are constant in your brightness, but I must change with the seasons!
Clumsy, abrupt, pulling weeds
in the bed of bee balm,
each four-walled stem
seals its bruise with a gift of mint,
perfumes our sweat with the welcoming
scent of Oswego tea
while butterflies applaud and hummingbirds
tipple from the red-fringed heads.
Oh, my dear, if our own bruises,
the bitterness of a graceless reach,the salt of our labored silences
could all be healed by the hovering
of invisible wings
and a leaf’s sweetness, first released
in tears and breaking.
(Mint was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2003)
Barb Quill Down (2004)
Barbs connect, the quill raises, down softens – it requires all three to make a feather. Although this is not a book about birds, in each poem appears a bird, a feather, flight. And the cover art is a charcoal rendering by Clara C. “Cookie” Griffin, my mother.
Barb Quill Down was a finalist in the 2003 National Looking Glass Chapbook Competition from Pudding House Publications.
Creatures that live for fire,
for flame to burn away the chaff and scrub,
a blaze to awaken the stone heart
and scour the pond pine seeds to life,
to open the longleaf cone like the mouth
of a fruitful distending womb –
Let it burn low and sweet
where roots securely sleep beneath
the sucking wet pocosin bed;
let it burn all, all about us let it burn
to consume the empty clinging husks,
the dragging tangle of exhausted vines
While we perch as high on the trunk
as the red-emblazoned woodpeckers,
rare, defiant, creatures of heartwood
and dangerous pungent sap —
let the acrid heat ascend, let tears of healing flow,
invite the clarifying flames that rise and let it
burn, let it burn as we become
creatures that live for fire.
To purchase these books, contact me at GriffinPoetry@aol.com
Let me know which books you want, send me your mailing address, and I’ll let you know how to mail me a check. Thanks!
little mouse ………………………………….$10
Snake Den Ridge, a Bestiary……….$15
Changing Woman …………………………$7
Barb Quill Down ……………………………$8
shipping expenses $3 per book