The PK Featured Poet 9 – M. A. Griffiths (grasshopper)

"I hope that with all my poems, whatever else I am trying to communicate, I will communicate some of my delight in language and the magic of words.." M.A. Griffiths

M A Griffiths is probably better known to list members as Grasshopper and it is this persona that has developed a unique style and voice. Grasshopper tells me that poems should stand on their own feet without preamble and explanation. The poems in this set clearly do that. (Jim Bennett)

Featured Poet 9 – M. A. Griffiths (grasshopper)

How/when did you start writing?

I think I started writing as soon as I learned how to write,but I was making up stories even before that.

 Was there anything that particularly influenced you?

I was born and raised in central London. I think the cultural and historical wealth of the city, and the varied areas like villages, in close proximity make London a great place in which to grow up.I also spent quite a bit of time with my father's family in South Wales, an education in political history, folklore and the countryside. I suppose the biggest single literary influence on my childhood was one of my father's friends, a writer of elegant social history, who bought me books every time he visited. They were wonderful illustrated books about the Greek Myths, Tales from Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights, Perrault's Fairy Tales. Later he brought me classic novels, reference books and dictionaries.I would often pick a dictionary as  bedtime reading, as I found words so fascinating.

 Do you have any strong influences on your writing?

I love the Metaphysical poets, Donne, Marvell and Vaughan in particular, for their sinewy use of language, and I also admire the sort of poetry with the deceptive simplicity achieved by George Herbert and Wm Blake, for instance. I don't try to imitate other writers intentionally. Whether they influence my writing subconsciously is another matter. I bl**dy well hope so!

How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing - time of day?

I find ideas for poems pop into my head all the time. I write them down whenever I have time. I have umpteen scraps of paper here and there on which I've scribbled parts of poems, quite apart from a bulging Drafts folder on my HD. I've just got myself a very small tape-recorder so I can capture the ideas that occur to me as I wait for a bus etc, and are usually forgotten. All I need now is the courage to use it in public Perhaps I can disguise it as a mobile phone. I often write 'dramatic monologues' which start off with me hearing a certain phrase in a particular voice in my head. The voice doesn't shut up until I write down the phrase, and write the other lines around it.

 Why do you write poetry?

I don't know. All I know is that I can't stop writing it. I think I'm a junkie.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I hope that with all my poems, whatever else I am trying to communicate, I will communicate some of my delight in language and the magic of words. If pressed,I will admit that I wish I could write a poem that would make everyone really respect the world and all our fellow travellers, whatever their species.


I am asked to choose poems that represent my work. This is so difficult, as I find it hard to identify any unifying style or voice in my poems.This will be a bit of a lucky dip. Please be warned that many of my poems are for adults only.

I enjoy the discipline of strict forms:

                                       Staccato for Lovers
                     No blades were sheathed, no target spared,
                     Throughout the cut and thrust we shared.
                     The bitter words like songbirds snared,
                                 And love was winged, as if lust cared.
                     For pleasure's course, you needed pain
                     To salt the cooling dish again.
                     I was too greedy to complain.
                                 When love is bleeding, lust may reign.
                     Like starving wolves we'd quickly rise,
                     And feast on flesh with hungry eyes,
                     With wanton tongues and carnal cries.
                                Love ran the race; lust stole the prize.
                      No blades were sheathed, no target spared;
                      Dark wounds too deep to be repaired.
                      Our skin was flayed and bones were bared.
                                 Lust sucked the peach that love had pared.



The first line of this poem is taken from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra:
 I am dying, Egypt, dying
 and all the weight of night
 and Nile is on my shoulders
 and my brow, The helmet
 breached, the armour cracked
 open like a wounded turtle
 the carapace of jewels
 is scattered on the flood-plain
  I am dying, Egypt, dying
  The constellations whirl
  children's tops whipped
  singing like green crickets
  the lilies droop, the lotus
  lifts his heavy head no more
  armies retreat, blinded
  by battle and Ra's brazen gaze
  I am dying, Egypt, dying
  and Rome sinks into darkness
  the age of heroes ends
  as Antony paints the desert
  with his blood. Ice and metal
  seal the sorry future
  the heat and passion drained
  I am dying, Egypt, dying
  cold Augustus will calculate
  the cost in columns
  our defeat his triumph
  our bloody loss his profit
  he will grey the world
  and bleach the coinage
  we die without glory
  but glory dies with us
  look, my love, in the East
  the brightness fades



A dramatic monologue:

 Sir, I was taught to write
 by a former master when I was young.
 He had enlightened views they say
 but he died childless and his estate
 fell into other hands.
 I was not needed so I took the road.
 I could have fallen into crime
 but by God's grace I found my calling.
 When I am about my business
 sometimes I hear the tinkle
 of fine china and silver
 from the open windows round the square.
 It reminds me of my days in service.
 The hardest thing I find is not the hanging
 nor the burning nor the gutting
 but the first cut that takes
 the manhood. I cast it into the fire
 without delay. I keep them on the rope
 longer than most and have been censured for it
 but my purse is no fatter however much
 a wretch suffers. I take pride in neatness.
 Often the press and sound of the crowd
 hit me like a fist. I smell the stink of rut.
 I wash my hands and arms and return
 to my family, leaving the work behind.
 Once I told my Confessor
 that thoughts trouble me at night.
 By Our Lady, he said,crossing himself,
 Without the rule of Law
 We would be as beasts.
 You are God's instrument, man.
 Now I must excuse myself
 for the fawn cow is big-bellied
 and close to her unburdening.
 Last time I had to remain all night
 beside her. She bore a white calf
 as dawn rose over the beechwood.
 My eldest daughter called it Puss.



I often write short poems. Here are three in different forms:

A cinquain:

                                     brown thrush
                                  shattering shells
                            slick naked snails glisten
                   for a moment like severed tongues
                                        then sing


                                The Drowning Gypsy




               Walking Canford Heath
           I am writing this with gritted teeth
           and hope I don't sound bitter,
           but I'd like to see more blasted heath
           and far less blasted litter.



The next poem is one of several I've written inspired by my love of the


 Me and AJ Taylor
 in his Daddy's old white pickup
 chasing the high hot dream
 across the ragged range
 we used our cocks like weapons
 the triggers pumped more slowly
 from one soursmelling motel
 to another asshole room
 across the dusty miles
 the nights ambled in laconic
 swayhipped like the Duke
 searching for the southlands
 sensing sirens on our tails
 we stole a silver mustang
 parked open by an outhouse
 and filled it with the stink
 of tacos, Camels and cheap beer
 in the glovebox a faded roadmap
 a baby's rattle and five photos
 of a woman sucking hogs
 last night by a crooked churchsign
 AJ found a starving skeethound
 fed it cheeseburgers and Pepsi
 scritched its ears and called it Angel
 lying in the backseat
 on his painted leather jacket
 it scratched and burped and farted
 then slept like distant thunder
 as we rode the the desert road
 scrunching potatochips and peanuts
 waiting for deadeye Dawn
 that old hick Sheriff
 to nail the desperado Moon
 AJ lit another Camel
 found Jim Reeves on the airwaves
 and I was kinda drowsing
 when the highway
 reared up like a snakehead
 and spat us into town



The next poem is about childhood:

             five fingers
 Lord, they say I have one soul
 can that be right?
 perhaps I am made wrong
 for I feel many things in me.
 most, says my grandmother,
 I resemble a monkey;
 that is when I chatter
 and play and do not listen.
 sometimes, my brothers tell me,
 I am like a brown deer,
 when I run fast, so fast
 like the wind stroking spring grass.
 then there is the owl of me,
 Lord,- my eyes round
with looking and stories
 and things to be understood.
 stripped for the water,
 I become fish, not thinking
 or considering, but warm
 in the river's fist, forgetting.
 when I stand under the stars
 there is something more,
 a sharp brightness
 on tiptoe like a spindle.
 when you take one, Lord,
 do not leave the others pining,
 it is one hand, five fingers.
 monkey will ride deer
 owl will sail salmon
 and light will guide us home.



The next poem is about childhood betrayed:

     a song for Lucy
Lucy bold and Lucy shy
Lucy laughing at the sky
Lucy small and Lucy neat
Lucy playing in the street
Lucy low and Lucy high
Lucy learning how to fly
Lucy warm and Lucy cold
Lucy dreaming rings of gold
Lucy false and Lucy true
Lucy knowing what girls do
Lucy priced and Lucy sold
Lucy young but feeling old
Lucy dark and Lucy bright
Lucy needing needle-bite
Lucy raw and Lucy scraped
Lucy beaten stripped and raped
Lucy short and Lucy sweet
Lucy redmorphed into meat
Lucy black and Lucy white
Lucy dances every night



I've included this final one by special request. Thanks, Christina:

 somewhere in this room
 there is a dead bird
 four plump Java finches
 perching yesterday
 on the curtainrail
 today an odd number
 somewhere in a corner or
 behind a piece of furniture
 there is a dead bird.
 I should look for it
 but not yet
 the green canary
 bubbles with song
 sends out a tendril
 of notes so beautiful
 it touches pain
 one of the doves coos
 with tender lust
 a parakeet flirts
 its vivid wings
I know somewhere
there is a dead bird
but I will not seek it yet
in the room of my mind
there are dark corners
where thoughts lie
desiccating like dead birds
I will not disturb them yet
not while sunlight
smells like honey
and canaries worship Pan.

Thank you for flying with grasshopper airlines.