About Steve Griffiths
Steve Griffiths was born in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey in 1949, grew up there and in Amlwch, lived in London most of his working life, and has returned there after ten years in Ludlow. Seven collections of poems between 1980 and 2016, with Rex Collings, Seren and Cinnamon, have their summation in Weathereye: Selected Poems (2019). His work has been widely broadcast and he has read in several countries, including a series of seven readings in New York in 2012. His poems have appeared in many anthologies, including recently the NHS anthology These are the hands. He is one of the hundred twentieth century Welsh poets writing in English featured in The Library of Wales ‘Poetry 1900-2000’ (2007, Parthian Books). He has a collection of new poems up his sleeve.
After reading English at Cambridge at the end of the Sixties, he began a working life engaged with the consequences of, and some solutions to, poverty, inequality and poor health, first as a welfare rights worker in London, later as a researcher and consultant in social and health policy, in the twenty years from 1993 working freelance all over Britain for local and national government, health bodies, and charities. Working for central Government at the turn of the century, he was an architect of an annual billion-pound investment in supported housing while working at weekends on his poetic exploration of a fallible Utopia, An Elusive State. He later wrote studies on reducing emergency hospital admissions. In retirement, he has published several policy thinkpieces online, notably Dark times for those who cannot work (2010) and Challenging the Democratic Deficit (2018)
He spent much of his childhood on beaches and cliffs. His mother ran a guest house; when he was 11, she got a new job as canteen supervisor in a chemical works in Amlwch, the origin of al-Chwm in ‘An Elusive State’, and the family moved, in a milk-truck, to the other side of the island.
He created his own variation of a well-trodden path: a boy who grew up on a beach, playing in the same rockpools as R.S.Thomas 35 years earlier, became an ‘expert’ on social conditions in London and elsewhere. The day job often squeezed out the poetry; but the quarrel between mental landscapes also created a fruitful tension in his work. He has constantly returned to the scene of his childhood for renewal. He was Vice-Chair of the Welsh Academy (English Language section) at the beginning of the Nineties. He held an unusually diverse trio of Fellowships, one of the Welsh Academy, a Visiting one at the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Central England, and a Senior Research Fellowship at the Centre for Psychological Therapies at the University of Chester. It seems to have been a search for a very inclusive coherence.
After his fourth book, his first Selected Poems (Seren, 1993), he didn’t publish again for fifteen years, until An Elusive State – Entering al-Chwm (Cinnamon, 2008). For five years he wrote nothing (1994-1999). His virtual disappearance from the poetry scene between the ages of 44 and 59 was a necessary renunciation, and it led to a second emergence. It did not help what is best not described as a literary career. The birth and death of al-Chwm, his imaginary Utopia, over four intense years from 1999 was transformational, as was the beginning of the Late Love Poems from 2006. In 2013 he and his second wife Wendy moved from London to Ludlow: Shropshire restored a spaciousness to his life that he had missed for a long time.
Approaching the age of seventy, the idea began to take shape of a Selected Poems that would pull together what he valued of his seven collections between 1975 to 2016. An unexpected journey opened up. He had always been a very slow poet. He was shocked at how unfinished some – not all – of his early poems seemed. Much was discarded – it was, after all, a Selected. But he also began a process of restoration – many cuts, many tweaks, and some radical re-entry into the original spirit that led to rediscoveries. It dawned on him that in some cases, he’d taken forty years to finish a poem. This is out of kilter with the speed of the world, including the poetry world, but it felt right. The resulting book is called Weathereye: Selected Poems. For a child of sea-horizons, to keep a weather-eye out (or ‘open’), for a change or a danger in the weather, is to be watchful, alert, to keep one’s wits about one. But increasingly, too, Whether I…:poems that negotiate uncertainty.
The pamphlets ‘Updrafts’ and ‘A Twist in the Stairs’ are a harbinger for what may be a last collection, called ‘Is this how it went’, which contains a good ten years’ work, including more than 50 poems published in a wide scatter of formats. It awaits a publisher, should one come along. There is a kind of completion too – who knows? – in a return to London, to be near to beautiful growing generations.
“It’s a parallel universe, a magical epic, a comfort, a mystery”