No. 8 – THE GAZE MET by Steve Griffiths



Steve Griffiths was born in Wales, on Ynys Môn (Anglesey) and may be described as a veteran of the Welsh poetry scene, though he has lived much of his life beyond Wales, engaged in welfare rights, health, and housing, including working for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He is no kind of ivory tower practitioner. But nor is he a political poet either, except incidentally, or by allusively provocative turn of thought. For his more direct and indirect approach to the political, see the historically grounded ‘Sceptred Isle’, the last poem in this selection.

Griffiths’s poems are sharp-eyed and astute, notably here as to the doings and capacities of the human ape. In the appropriately named poem ‘Late Work’, observing chimp and baboon, he asks ‘What does it mean / to think like a human, half-human’, and, along the way, deftly works in a resonant reference to ‘Primates of All England’. You are never sure where his poems will take you. But one thing you can be certain about, you won’t be carried along by cliché. These poems will make you dwell and think.

Observant, Griffiths is (see the observational tour-de-force ‘Orangutan’), and as already said, sharp-eyed, but at the heart of what he is about is the knowledge that the gaze is a two-way street, it is ‘met’ and ‘held in common’, as we see in the poem ‘Attention’, another in which humans figure as primates ‘wandering uncertainly / through time’.

Here too are some amusing autobiographical excursions from school days, ‘Running’ and ‘Reading Wilfred Owen with Mr Lewis’. But whatever he turns to, in whatever manner, what you will find here are exemplary poems that refuse to behave as you might at any point anticipate, though not in any anarchic spirit of poetic experimentation. These poems are ‘late work’ and maturely so.