Bill Griffiths (1948-2007)


The sad news just in that poet & friend Bill Griffiths died on 12 September. No details yet, though Tom Pickard’s message to Tom Raworth suggests heart attack. The tough-looking ex-biker who showed up in 1973 on my doorsteps at Stanhope Gardens, London, sent by Eric Mottram, wearing his colors and love/ hate tattoos on his knuckles, shyly proposed a sheaf of poems for SIXPACK, the magazine I was editing at the time. Those were brilliant poems, like nothing that was being done in UK poetry at the time & I immediately published his Cycles on Dover Borstal in Sixpack 3/4 (they would later constitute his first book, Cycles, published by Writers Forum in 1974.). Bill would go on to work with Bob Cobbing, become a major small press publisher, a doctored Professor of Anglo-Saxon literature, a specialist in regional dialects and Northumbrian lore & narratives – and one of England’s finest poets of his generation. He remained among the most modest and gentlest of human beings it was my pleasure to meet. Here is the opening section of the first poem of his I published back then:

CYCLES ON DOVER BORSTAL

Ictus!
As I ain’t ever like to be still but
Kaleidoscope,
Lock and knock my sleeping.

Within
The complex of the fort against the French, Dover,
‘S mighty imperfection: fits to the sea.
The moat (and ported, kinging the blue) closed, so built-made and the salty
grass and rubble of chalk growing.
Writing the chalk –– kid
Shout for separation.

The ships, turquoise,
Cutting open the sea
Smiling killing
O.K.

The day opens up, is pale;
Opens free, to me
My hands lightened, head,

At running in the sun
I thought
This serious, my world is.

The sky blue
The barbwire is German
Made with razorblades
Buckets of strong yellow.

Do you know it’s the sea?
The speaking sound
And I woke like a dragon’s dream
Taut-limb around and my teeth were avid
In wonder
The gross gates got to
Fit
Like clothing fits

You’re you
And I ain’t anyone but you.

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Comment on “Bill Griffiths (1948-2007)”

  1. Pierre: I’ve put up a link. Tomorrow shall go up and stay overnight with Tom Pickard before funeral on Wednesday. Love to you all. See you in the spring, I hope. Tom

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