Griffiths has one of the finest ears – for song, for varieties and cadences of speech – of any poet writing today. His compacted lyrics flash with intelligence and humour. They are shaped by anger, empathy and childish delight. But they are also charged with the excitement of contemporary form: swift, filmic montage and free use of the page space. His poems dig, probe, reveal, expose the language as it is lived, with a range possibly unequalled in any British poet. Their sharp diagnoses of social domination and the ideas that sustain and mask it are a wake-up call. But there is nothing dry about them: they savour language, ask you to dance with it, show you the pain in it, enlarge the world with it. Griffiths was a key member of the British Poetry Revival, both as an activist in the Poetry Society and in the small press scene, and as a writer of inventive, formally innovative poetry. He continues to explore the shapes of contemporary experience, and to denounce agencies of unfreedom. By now he is the author of a large body of work, which this book seeks to make available to ordinary readers. The essays collected here offer guides to reading, commentaries on forms and sources, and a range of insights into how the poems work. There is also a bibliography, an interview, photographs and visuals, all of which help to give a vivid sense of Griffiths’s world.
‘Bill Griffiths’s mix of street-wise academia and boundary dancing poetry have engaged audiences now for at least four decades. He possesses that ability to mix chance with intent, history with fiction and irreverent music with non-received pronunciation in order to deliver what has become one of the most consistently creative bodies of poetic writing made during the past century. That his name does not yet trip off the tongue of mainstream poetry buyers is something that should be swiftly corrected. To know where we are with our verse in the UK an understanding of Griffiths is essential.’ —Peter Finch
‘In a world packed with fraudulent choirboys, every now and again a truly oppositional voice gets through. Bill Griffiths has one of those voices. It’s great to see his shattered sea shanties and anarchist shards of sprung wit finally getting a little of the attention they deserve.’ —Sean Bonney
‘Bill Griffiths is a national treasure and it sometimes seems he is buried under a mound like the Sutton Hoo treasures, inviolate, timely and glittering, but there’s not a speck of dirt on him. Our treasure hoard is his word hoard. He loans us his unique perspectives – gnomic, relaxed, critical, esoteric, outsider – along with his loan words. Compressed like a jewel they accept the elucidation generously offered to them, without specifically inviting it. This book provides that.’ —Robert Sheppard
‘Bill Griffiths is one the most distinguished poets to come to the fore in British poetry in the 1970s. He is at once erudite and accomplished, drawing from Old English as often as modern and contemporary parlance. From his ground-breaking sequence Cycles to his translations of The Battle of Maldon to his more recent Durham, his work engages with gravitas, humour and song – often in the same poem. Reading and rereading his work continues to be both invigorating and sustaining. Each new collection of his work brings reliable strength with vulnerable surprise.’ —Allen Fisher