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Carl Griffin lives in Swansea, South Wales.
He has written extensively on Welsh poetry and poets, in the form of reviews and essays.
Though born in Stockton-on-Tees, he has spent most of his life living in each of the Welsh cities, and these are the places that inspire many of his poems.
The collection was a winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize.
138 x 216mm
£8.99+ P&P UK
Throat of Hawthorn
Throat of Hawthorn is Carl Griffin’s first collection of poetry. It travels the borders between the Welsh land and the Channel; along the open lure of sea, its deceptive beaches; along the claustrophobic safety of housing estates, and the knowing woods around them. It travels, too, the storms on the borders, trying to see through them, and beyond.
Cathedral of the Heart
Built on swampy ground,
the cathedral on the coast soils
not in its drunken pillars,
but in who the bishop
might spy in the pews,
who is susceptible to its grace.
Some kneel at a centuries-old font,
or hymns quicken
their heart at the choir stall.
Students – among the cloisters
and murals – are drawn
to designing majesty
on this god scale.
One bearded group protect tomb chests,
armed with dowsing rods,
Geiger counters, cheering
at cold spots on the timber
ceiling of the nave, infrasound
and ball lightning metamorphosing
into ghosts of saints.
When the organ plays
seemingly by itself,
each archetype interprets
what is proffered. Except
the uneven cathedral
which wavers and sways but,
even while surveying its own foundation,
You have to kneel
with the animal
to uncover which world
between the dog barking
and the everything
being barked at.
Whatever wisdom’s worth
learning, you learn
you were not made to rule;
you can’t whitewash fear
instilled in you
that one day you will not stand;
you are smaller
than you ever dreamed possible.
You can smell the dog,
hear half of what it knows.
Not everything you can’t discern
Even the Landlocked
Opposed to the algal body
of seaweed, its leafy ruse,
flotation organs, splash
of brackish water, I was born
with a throat of hawthorn
so wade this grass
for my voyage of the briny –
sail a landlubber’s
No one has drowned in dew.
Winding driveway flanked
by screens of shadowy hedge;
the garden a fair few acres
to get buried in;
dogs, named after herbs
or spices more subtle than Arsenic,
greeting guests with barking.
I ghost-write crime novels,
I tell our host, a passive-
resistant elderly Christian
who neglects to invite me
beyond her reception room.
A fireplace in lieu of a television
heats a settee
a wealthy relative
might never wake up on.
I mentally conjure
endless rooms and dodgy
light bulbs, the antique wardrobes
with only space for skeletons.
I love a good murder, I elaborate.
Our host pours the assembled
our hot drinks, her face filling
with steam: What’s a good murder?
These ground rupture cracks
on upland Santa Clarita roads
are chipped thick enough to wedge
sardines in. Conceptualist van Elk’s
big bang is a brine-coated school
marking the rived road
a landlocked seine or rocky weir
whose by-catch look to fool
as we drive to white oil
and the canyons. The ocean
is bursting through the concrete
and here leaks the first shoal
of pelagic fish in a sunlit zone.
But we can’t swim in aromas.
There’s no sea without water,
no splash of expectancy in stone.
Son Rise, Son Set
Footslogging the crosswind beside a boy
young enough to walk without walking,
the man who no more functions that way
is counterbalance to the weaving glove,
scarf and stinging cheek; is fastener
of awkward jerking coats. Roads can’t move
but fathers move roads with numbed feet.
The boy, though not publicly arresting,
to the man is bewitchingly unique.
They walk while they quarrel, while they brood.
They hold hands, akin to liaisons.
The son’s carried to see the odd mile through.
Up to their necks in potholes, roadwork,
if what looms ahead is not glorious
sunlight you wouldn’t sense it in their walk.
They are man and boy. Son and father.
On roads or off, they walk in collaboration.
The river paves the fall paves the river.
Boys are playing
at the America-Mexico border
when their ball rebounds
over a neighbour’s wall.