by S. A. Griffin. 122 pages. Phony Lid Publications. P.O. Box 29066, Los Angeles, Ca. 90029.
Book Review by Michael Basinski
Deep in dream a pale horse appears on the horizon and moves rapidly as a chess piece towards my sleeping self. ‘Tis death jumping from her saddle and come creeping. Slipping her hand under my blanket, her bony hand grabs my wrist and beckons and pulls and finally yanks. But tonight I am stronger than death. How much more? I wonder? How long? What should I do with this bucket of time? It’s morning in the north again. Pleasantly the icy rain coats the streets, trees, everything. The neighbors and their dogs, children and gods will be remaining, quietly, inside. Unborn Again, a new book by S. A. Griffin has followed some crooked path to my swollen hands. Why not. I move slowly thought the short lines. Anti-poetry, I think. This is a good thing. Another soul standing in the front against the academic tank. Not that there will be a crushing, but this thorn will flatten some general’s tire. But if these poems were a clump of grapes, what a fine wine. It’s an L. A., California book as it opens, but quickly Griffin turns his L. A. into poetry, the realm of poetry, and the poet S. A. L. A. California. S. A. Griffin. I wonder if there is something melding there? He meshes, like some fine Hanes hosiery, the natural world, nouns and stuff, with abstractions, like knowledge, to produce profundity after profundity. Philosophically profound, I think yes. And his anti-art brings forward and into focus a world that is real. Clearly, Griffin draws a line. The top two percent on the other side get Bush’s tax cut. And here, us 98 percents get Griff’s poems. Seems like a fair deal to me. Now when you’re reading along in any book of poems, and I have read far too many poems, too many books of poems, on far too many nights… Nevermind. When you’re reading along in a book of poems you wait. The wait’s not long in Griffin. And along with the good poems, come the great poems. Like Griffin’s A House Divided:“when will men/ understand/ that/ when women lose their right to/ choose/ they no longer have the/ same right?” And in his Acropolis of Absent Fathers, he brings Icarus into his L.A. life. Poetry is a living thing, a daily thing here in the life and times of S.A. Why, in one poem he wrestles with the word thing in the midst of carnivorous punk type teen kid harassment from the audience. The poets win the duel, the fight, the riot and poetry wins. I like that. In S.A. Griffin, yes there is the beer and the hangovers, the painful storms of life, but there is more than that, there is poetry. This IS how one lives. Well, here, in some form of closing, allow me to tell more. The wind is picking up and the rain is now pelting. Later when I drive about, the streets will be less complicated. The old and lame and housewives still chained to the Truman era will not venture forth. So let me write, dear friends, that 12 Kisses to the Universe is another great one - - - about the madness and salvation of love. It begins with the line:“The sun sets on the dildo skyline.” And later there is a riotous poem about phone sex, which is then phone poem sex. But I like the best, Griffin’s poem President of Nothing. How often in this great, deep and dark, stormy forest of life are the wrong paths taken. Everyone has to have a wrong path story. If I had only stayed at the china factory, I’d now be in Florida. Oh Christ Almighty, thank the gods. You see, this poem is about turning the back to the obvious wealth the square world delivers - - - if you have no, or sell your, or can’t locate your soul, heart, guts. In the end, after all those wrong turns, they are the right turns, the right choices. The only choice. Now there are a lot of gritty, fact and truth heavy poems out there. Many, many more than the great ocean of stupidity that civilization has manifested. Now and then, however, there is an island, an apartment. Yes, an apartment in which might be a poet, a poet like S.A. Griffin. He made the right choice. He is president of nothing. You should make the right choice. Work on his campaign.