Here is an exceptional pamphlet, studded with some of the very best of Steve Griffiths’ work. Updrafts explores the richness of the poet’s lifelong connection to place – and wider skies – in poems of spare but deeply felt and vivid imagery. The landscapes of Anglesey and Shropshire feature here, but so too, do ‘three herons, slow/ and upside down over Harringay’ as the poet exercises in his flat. These poems celebrate life, and remind us there is ‘no joy but in recognition and discovery.// No resilience/ but in the delicate’.
Steve Griffiths’ poetic voice is distinctive and engaged: this is poetry attentive to the world, its rhythms, its planetary movements, its seas and hills, its chastening weather. There are scrupulously filtered recollections of an Anglesey childhood, moving but unsentimental, and fine observations of nature and the elements as a frame for the poet’s humane response to society and the individual’s place in it in a time of crisis.
This generous selection from forty years gives us the measure of the scope and depth of Steve Griffith’s work. From the start, it held the tension between the personal and the political, the view from the edge and the crunch-points of contemporary change. At the hinge of the book, we find the revelatory sidestep into the shifting, wry utopia of Al-Chwm, not an escape from but a deft critique of our realities… from where the writing returns to address the inner and the outer world with new confidence and clarity.
Late Love Poems explores what is timeless about love but also those qualities of sexuality, pain, devotion and grief that are affected by the ageing process….. It presents an intimate diary of love which explores the rhythms of living with someone, cooking with someone, sleeping with someone…. Ultimately, though Griffiths’ collection challenges one age-old stereotype – that love is the domain of the young – it is unable to deny the other: love cannot make us immortal.
A varied but coherent collection by a subtle and deeply intelligent writer who can address human concerns like the intimate recall of childhood or the challenges of middle age without sentimentality; he can move between abstract thought and concrete particularities with such ease that sometimes the join is invisible. This is mature writing, picking its way through the layers and ‘surfaces’ of an experience, suddenly clarified into a single lucid image.
Challenging, refreshing…the tangential world we really inhabit…. ambitious, demanding … The book has a strong and well maintained intellectual thrust which frankly sets it apart from much modern poetry. Al-Chwm itself flickers before us like a mirage, but changes shape as the next poem arrives. In the end…we must realise that the people these ambitious and challenging poems describe are ourselves, and that they represent the permanently unsettled (and unsettling) human imagination. The book is a quest, and for every reader that quest will have a different result. Maybe that is its great value.
An Elusive State is a poetic epic of time, place and language… both as invented as More’s original Utopia, and as real as the small town on Anglesey where Griffiths was born… a distinctive, distinguished accomplishment… truly a parable of many parallels, one for and beyond our times…
It’s a parallel universe, a magical epic, a comfort, a mystery.