Declassified — Mariela Griffor (Eyewear Publishing Ltd.)
Today's book of poetry by Michael Dennis
Declassified. Mariela Griffor. Eyewear Publishing Ltd. Marylebone, London, U.K.
Declassified by Mariela Griffor is bursting at the seams with ideas, imagery and outside influences. A short retinue of guest stars has to include: Nelson Mandela, William S. Burroughs, George Orwell, Sappho, Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Sylvia Plath, James Joyce, Henry David Thoreau, Ariel Dorfman and Marcel Proust.
Regardless of the guests, in the end these are poems of love and loss. Every highway we know has ditches littered with the ruined and rusty hulks of what someone once called hope. Or at least the wire-fenced, flower adorned, temporary altar, a reminder of someone's worst moment, another person's worst loss.
May 20, 2014
For Regina Derieva
We never met; we never spoke to each other
except through the immigrant song of Jan Johansson,
we knew we were united in
indestructible fibers of life breathing
in and breathing out, marching
to the sound of old days, in countries
that remind us of our own countries,
speaking old languages, that remind us of our own tongues,
we became so suddenly eternal tourists with a right to vote.
It was a time in my life when I stopped laughing
and I knew you did too. I could see it
in the photographs of magazines and
journals where new poems by you were published.
I knew what it was to be without a reason to laugh.
So sorry to have to miss you,
well-planned journeys, well they never happened.
I planned several trips to Rinkeby,
a town that I avoided fiercely when
I was there. It is not easy
to be reminded of cut wings, as you know.
My trips to Stockholm were always
the same, Gamla Stan, centrums, H&M
and the Viking Museum, then back to Uppsala.
Rinkeby was a forbidden point,
the limbo of anybody's trajectory.
But had I known then you were there
I would have faced the fear
and visited you.
I love your work. The fresh, naïve
and sweet idea the world can be improved, stained
on the pages everywhere.
I love the way you put the
best of you in your poems. The way
you make yourself at home inside a whale,
the way some of your images cannot
leave my head for days, exactly like
a pop song. The way you make me think
with each line and take me to places
I have never been before.
I love the way that insufferable persistence
of something must change in this
endlessness of war times, this time that
consumes each of us and makes us bend
in the direction of the wind a dozen times per day
as in your poem. I pray for that persistence
to infect everyone who reads you.
I'm sorry to have missed you in this life.
I imagine what great times you and I would have had
if we only had the opportunity and time, and money of course,
don't forget that, to meet.
Silly of me to think we would have had
that cup of coffee in Gamla Stan
and talked about pigeons and old catholic schools,
and how the world is not changing but ending.
Nature has its tricks, and even if we make progress,
it will make us part of its garden. Yes, at least.
Today's book of poetry has always flattered ourselves that we are "experienced." It is to laugh. Mariela Griffor's Declassified reminds Today's book of poetry just how sheltered our life has been. Up until a post-Katrina visit to New Orleans, I had never heard a gun shot from a weapon fired in anger. I've only heard it once. Admittedly it was several rapid shots from a pistol followed immediately by three or four quick bursts of machine gun fire in return,
The last rebellion of any kind here in Canada was the failed FLQ operation. That was when I was young and both Quebec City and Montreal were as far from Peterborough as Mars. Griffor's Chilean history and her experiences as a political refugee are but one layer of the Griffor onion.
Today's book of poetry was won over quickly, Mariela Griffor has lived through things we cannot begin to imagine and come out the other side clean and hopeful. How astonishing is that? People still have to love and tenderness plays a big role in the Griffor canon.
The Last One
Last night I could not sleep,
the children were not at home. They both had
sleepovers. I was tired, too. Too much time away from
grown ups and I know they will be OK, I will move
back. This time, closer to my father, that at that
time will be old and probably very cranky. But
I will move back to spend with him the
time we never could give to each other before.
I will move back to those mountains in between
Pucon and Talcahuano, I will go to the beaches
around. I also plan to write.
I will take walks in San Pedro to
meet those people I saw the last time
when I was there, and I will run to the
Ocean, to touch the black sand of San Pedro,
I will be closer to God, feeling the thick
air of the early morning. I will let the salt
make my face ruggy and I will think about you and
those days in Chiloe, at the End of the Earth.
I also will go and visit my old relatives, those
that are so old that they don't even remember their
ages. I will put back the pieces of that last poem, and
will promise that you will always have a place in my mind.
It's time for you and me to go different
ways. You find the place your soul was longing.
And I will choose to stay here without you and
with the other I love. Just hang out there,
the day to get together is every day shorter,
but now it is time for me to do so much more.
Last night as I said I could not sleep
I knew this would be my last letter and my
last poem for you.
Our morning read was set up by Eric Burden & War belting out the long version of "Spill the Wine."
When Eric quit his temperamental scat, with War throbbing behind him like "hot rings of fire," we got on with our poetry business.
Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, started us off this morning and we were away, Thomas sat in, along with Lucy, our newest intern, and declassified Declassified.
Sometimes the horrors of life confound us innocents, but those rare souls who have had their pearls polished by terrible friction and come out the other side shining write wondrous and brave, Griffor can write deeply caring and sweet poems, or she can knock on the darkness door.
Somebody told me this country was hard:
But not this hard.
I didn't believe it because
I came from a hard country myself
and because I lived in other hard
countries so I was not afraid.
I thought we were different yet not
that different. I have nostalgia
for the homeland as I always
did have nostalgia so it was
nothing new. When I started
to see and feel in this new
spooky way and my left eye
started to tremble and I could not
control the movement, like the
most embarrassing tic you can
imagine, I withdrew. The time
began to walk slowly in the
inside and very fast on the outside.
The day after the new election
the bombs and the new troops
didn't stop, we will not talk
about it, because as in my hard
country we don't talk about it.
We can talk only about what
we can talk about and the
rest is just the poor imagination
of dissidents. And how can it be
interesting to talk about what
dissidents talk about if
we already talked about it in the past
elections in the last century. It was
always the same. I do try to see the
good side of living in a hard country
though, so I'm not totally a critic.
I do want to have
my duties, my opinions, and I do
want to see things are changing for
the better, including the economy as
they say on TV. One of the good things
when soldiers come from the front line.
Have you seen the screen of the TV full
of beautiful children running to meet
daddy or mommy coming back? And
the uniform they wear, really beautiful,
no marks of blood or dirt anywhere.
Nobody could guess what
those uniforms can say. Don't take
this the wrong way. I also come
from a family in another hard
country that knows very well
the duty and honour of wearing a uniform
especially this one. What hits me
that hardest is the bouquet
of flowers the soldier brings to his
bride or wife and the running of
this beautiful woman to his side,
the crying every time. Perhaps because
I'm a romantic and I like flowers
or perhaps because I remember his
face destroyed by the hand grenade
he was carrying or the landmine
put in the ground by who knows who.
I guess we will never know. I remember
thinking how much makeup
the mortician had to put
over his face to hide all that
damage. His hair looked good
but those nostril pieces missing
will haunt me forever. See? My
country is also hard. Like
yours. I do think there is
a reason sometimes, yet
most of the time I just think
there is a bigger plot and not
exactly by God or the Devil that things
are this hard. Those who don't
think I'm right, they tell me
to get over it, to adapt, to adjust
and get over it. The ones that think
I'm right, they are mostly silent,
they hide, they don't like my
posts and they avoid
me when I get too difficult.
The problem is that I cannot
adapt and I'm always surprised
seeing more and more people
give in. Yesterday my oldest
child told me in the grocery store
she hated Albanians. Why? I asked
her and she told me, in her building
on the first floor there is a family
of four living in a nine hundred square foot
apartment and all above them can
smell their disgusting food,
bending over to my ear she whispered
and said, I don't like them because they
are all terrorists. And how do you know
that? I asked. Everybody knows that
she responded looking over her
shoulder to show me the Albanian couple
paying at the next cashier. I tell
her that's it. No more. I know I
will adapt. I will write more things
that can be printed and some people
will never read my poems and maybe
I will not think this country is hard
anymore and I will see the positive
side of the whole story and forget.
In the meantime I don't, I'm dangerous
if I remember scars , doorbells,
the sulfur smell of the tear gas
bomb and whistling zig-zag of
bullets coming from an unknown
direction, or if I remember he didn't
have his three left hand fingers.
[But excuse me for a moment,
my friend Cora is at the door,
we need to chat about her French doors
she is getting for her house]
Back to what I was saying:
He used to play the guitar with that hand.
I know they told me this
country was hard but I'm telling
you the truth when I say, nobody
really told me it was this hard.
Today's book of poetry has a soft spot for Chilean poets. Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval (1914-2018), is an all-time favourite here in our offices. Mariela Griffor will have the recently interred centenarian Parra, smiling, at the very least, a certain sly grin. Griffor is that hard as nails poet with a gentle and loving human heart.
Canto General Shortlisted for the National Book Translation Award 2017
I knew it will be difficult to find a new focus for my writing for the Winter 2016-2017. At least a focus strong enough to continue with one part of my writing that is essential to me: creative writing.
I decided instead that I would spend most of my time challenging my inner child and enjoy whatever type of writing would come to me. I was a bit exhausted by the work I did in the two previous years-I moved from one state to another and I finished two collections and one enormous translation-- I would welcome the type of writing that never pays off in any way. That meant that writing would probably sit on my desk for years before I would get around to editing it into something, or shaping it into a form. But we are not writing for the money, right? Right.
After both of my parents died at the end of 2016, it was difficult to find one thing to give all my attention. It was as if, the more I tried to write or continue to write my ongoing projects, the more writing itself felt meaningless. My mother never gave much attention to my writing and my father used to believe that I wrote only because he had some interest in writing himself and because I was so similar to him, both in character and interest. Both of his beliefs were completely wrong of course, but I never had the courage to tell him.
When I wrote my first book of poetry and I sent him and my family a copy of it, my family called me to ask that I not send books to my father. He went into a deep depression and the family needed to take him to a forced vacation in Pucon, an area in the South of Chile, to help him to deal with the sadness. I asked him when I had the opportunity what had happened and he told me: " I never imagined that one of my children had suffered so much!" he told me.
I truly thought long and deeply about whether my writing would ever be a positive thing to anyone but me or to those few that read my work. I inspired a few to write their books because my first book was so confessional, so full of errors, so incredibly shameless that those few I inspired said to me, if you can write a book, I can do it, too. Despite this, something inside always told me that the fact that I had the need to write all my life was NOT a coincidence. I went into an M.F.A program a decade ago. And so far I haven't regret it. There, I polished some old poems that were among my papers for over a decade. I was fine with the results.
When parents are gone, it is rough no matter what. Every time I go through some rough times, something happens to me, the writing changes. This past year was not an exception. I could not write anything else than historical or non-fiction pieces. I was not able to polish or concentrate on one single poem until now. Until I saw the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms trees that came to my rescue. What would have happened to me if I would have gone into my second year without writing poetry? a second year without peeling day by day the essence of earth and seeing the colors of the sky. I don't remember saying hello to a neighbor for over a year. It was dark out here for a while, I thought that all the words grew wings and traveled far from me to escape so much loss.
Hasta el 18 de julio del 2016 se recibieron los micro cuentos para participar del concurso “Me contaron de Chile”, organizado por la Dirección para Comunidades de Chilenos en el Exterior (DICOEX) del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. El concurso ha premiado a los mejores cuentos en 4 categorías.
Una de las ganadoras del concurso fue la Sra. Constanza Fuentes Reveco, quien ganó un premio en el Concurso Literario "Me Contaron Chile. Respondiendo al pedido del Consulado General de Chile en Chicago me he encontrado con la senora Fuentes y le he hecho entrega de un diploma, una bandeja de plata y una serie de libros y literatura chilena.
Aqui en este blog comparto unas fotos y un video de la entrega del premio a la Senora Constanza Fuentes. Felicitaciones de parte del Consulado Honorario de Chile en Detroit!!
Consul Honorario de Chile en Detroit.
New Book: Canto General
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Thanks to David Young for his review of my new translation of Neruda’s Canto General, now published in Field Magazine!
The review is not online, but if you would like to subscribe to this wonderful magazine you have the opportunity to do so now if you follow this link! $5 is not much if you consider how much you get and how you can help the press. You can add it to your leisure expense section of your taxes later on. I’m lucky to share the pages with Forrest Gander, another translator. I met Forrest for the first time at the Miami Book Festival where we both had the opportunity to read from our recent translations of Neruda.
Despite how difficult it is to understand 2016, with the loss of my father at the end of August and the loss of my mother the same day I lost one of my best friends (Derick) in December, life continues to offer opportunities that bring love and light into all this darkness.
Thanks to Eyewear Publishing in London, special thanks to Todd Swift, Edwin Smet and Kelly Davio at Eyewear, for this beautiful book!!
For pre-orders of this book from Eyewear Publishing go to:
Published January 2017
Price £12.99 / $ 12.99
Declassified is an enigmatic, at times erotic, and often passionate, exploration of relationships and politics, finding their shared tropes of deception, subterfuge, and even espionage. The poems move between a revolutionary, and a ‘Her’ based in the American Midwest of today. Ultimately, the book’s focus is on love – between husbands and wives, friends, and a mother and her daughter – and how, in these challenging times, only the strongest bonds resist decay. Griffor’s style moves between a hypnotic prose poetry and the rich magic realism of Latin American poets.
Mariela Griffor’s brilliant poems navigate the distance between languages, homelands and heartlands. Her poems are the musical and engraved declarations the wounded world requires.
— Derick Burleson
When I read poets who are new to me I usually see what they are doing but very often can’t see why they are doing it. I don’t have to wonder for a second why Mariela Griffor writes as she does. On a first reading the sheer urgency driving her strongest poems stopped me in my tracks: it arises from the private tragedies of her earlier years before she left Chile, and of course these tragedies were also public, affecting many thousands. Her most affecting lines are phrased simply, often with a vulnerable air, yet they are tough. These lines carry great weight: that is no small achievement. --
--Robin Fulton Macpherson
Canto General. Anatomy of a Book #1
Usually when I tell people that I write poetry, they tell me “Me too!” No matter where I am the answer is always similar to: “OK, I wrote poetry when I was young”, or “I write poetry from time to time.”
When they ask me what else I write I usually say “that’s it, just poetry, from time to time I translate a book that is both essential and monumental and is not yet available in English.”
But the other day, while I was in a line at the postal service, somebody asked me “Why write more books, there are so many books already!” I replied, “True, it is true” I replied, “but some books are very special, like kids’ books or books about special flowers, or special pets.” “They can change lives!” I said.
And indeed this Canto General by Pablo Neruda changed my own life. It was not until I read this book that I understood the meaning of my own ‘dislocation’. Of course, I experience the pain of exile, the confusion of being away from my home, my family, friends, my language, my sweet loved home and country. It was not until I read those amazing stanzas of love for the homeland that Pablo Neruda wrote all the while he was persecuted, hunted down to be killed by his own government that I understood the meaning of patriotic love. There are no similar lines of beauty and praise for nature, for the land and its people than in these lines of the Canto General: Song of the Americas of Pablo Neruda now released by Tupelo Press.
This is a book that has been misunderstood. It is not a political pamphlet. It is one of the most beautiful poems ever written and it has gone largely unnoticed as such. It is indeed Neruda’s ‘magnum opus’. It is the song for the Americas in its highest form. The cover of this translation is stunning in its own beauty. A selection that complements the idea of the Conquistador and the Indian in one single image. I’m so lucky to be able to work with the Tupelo team!. I have had several writers and editors that quit on me because of the enormous challenge and scope of the work! Thanks Jeffrey Levine, Jim Schley, Kirsten Miles, Cassandra Cleghorn and Marie Gauthier.
And all of you that helped with the initial project! Thank you. I started this translation in 2010 and so much has been changing in these six years. I lost the sense of time with this project. I have even lived in another state since last year. I try to write full time now but nothing that I can say here can explain why this book, what is it in this book, how has this book become a part of you and transformed you from within. There are no words that could provide a short cut to an explanation of why this book is so relevant today that you need to read it. This book can bring you to the state of mind that Neruda had when he wrote Canto General. You will understand when you read the introduction in the book and when you read this long incomparable poem.
Thank you for being with me through all of this and for joining all of us on this adventure.
I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to return to Sweden to read with old and new friends, Kjell Espmark, Dipak Mazumdar, Lars Palm and Anna Alexandra Maria Sozzani-Brodsky.
Many thanks to publisher Alexander Deriev.
Återkomst – ReturnFem poeter läser
lördag 7 november 2015 14:00 - 15:00
Bibliotek Plattan • Fri Entré
ÅTERKOMST – RETURN är en minipoesifestival arrangerad av nyligen återuppståndna tidskriften och förlaget Ars Interpres.
Medverkande författare är Kjell Espmark, Mariela Griffor, Dipak Mazumdar, Lars Palm och Anna Alexandra Maria Sozzani-Brodsky.
Festivalen kommer att bestå av uppläsningar, bokpresentationer och samtal mellan författarna, där temat ÅTERKOMST – RETURN kommer att vara en gemensam nämnnare.
Sömnlöshet by Mariela Griffor/Ars Interpres Publications, Stockholm, Sweden/
2015/212 pages/ €23,00 EUR/ ISBN: 978-91-980386-6-8
Orders: Alexander Deriev/Tingvallavägen/195 31 Märsta/ Telefon: 08-59113267
When Alexander Deriev, who has a deep understanding and appreciation of poetry, called and told me he wanted to publish a trilingual book (Sömnlöshet) of my poems, I laughed at first. I wondered immediately just how many people would buy such a rare sort of book. I had once been listed years ago as “an author of rare books” together with some others regarded as cult writers – which I took great pleasure in – but then I thought: We enjoy the privileged amount of “just a few” that read our work!
Though the thought was amusing, deep inside I was flattered, very flattered. I knew Deriev was a connoisseur of poetry and that gave me a great feeling and, at the same time, a little bit of pressure of responsibility. Immediately my mind tried to find ways of releasing the tension, the pressure. I told him immediately “Yes”, but that he should not be disappointed if the sales of the book were low or even minimal.
He said he didn’t care. So I thought, here we are, two bibliophiles, talking about a trilingual book that perhaps nobody would read. The world is stranger than I thought. At least I like this kind of strange, at least this path does not involve killing or impoverishing people, right? Or maybe the world had always been this multilingual, multicultural, and it took a while for us to understand that fact, until the arrival of globalization!
When most of the publishers and writers (and editors of course!) are preoccupied with the number of sales, we were immersed in the discussion of what language should be first or second or third in the book. We decided to go with Swedish first. Swedish is an extraordinarily beautiful language but it is largely unknown outside Sweden. However since the book is to be distributed primarily in Sweden we decided to go with Swedish first, then English and Spanish.
Alexander’s wife, Regina Derieva, had been suffering from a lengthy illness and for several years he took devotedly care of his wife until she died in December of 2013.
Now, when he was returning to previously planned projects, the world was not the same anymore; it had become global and I have seen several bilingual books emerging from different parts of the world and even some trilingual anthologies.
We began to put together strategies for the book and finally, voila, here it is standing proud among other similar ideas for multilingual books. Thanks to Alexander Deriev and Lars Ahlström, the translator, this book is not only possible but is a reality today. Who would have thought that possible five years ago! I’m proud of belonging to Alexander Deriev’s list of writers, as are many others who have published with him like Per Wastberg, John Kinsella, Dipak Mazumdar, Les Murray and many more. He is not only a member of the literati but is also a publisher-hunting- for-poets-around-the-world!
Buy the book here and let me know what you think! http://arsint.com/book_m_g.html
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Mariela Griffor