Susan Griffin

b. 1943
Poet, essayist, and playwright Susan Griffin was born in 1943 in Los Angeles, California. An early awareness of the horrors of World War II and her childhood in the High Sierras have had an enduring influence on her work, which includes poetry, prose, and mixed genre collections. A playwright and radical feminist philosopher, Griffin has also published two books in a proposed trilogy of “social autobiography.” Her work considers ecology, politics, and feminism, and is known for its innovative, hybrid form. Her collections in this vein include Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (1978); A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War (1982), which was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award, won a BABRA Award, and was a New York Times Notable Book; The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender, and Society (1995); What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows (1999); The Book of Courtesans: A Catalog of their Virtues (2001); and Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy: On Being an American Citizen (2008). Her play, Voices (1975), won an Emmy and has been performed throughout the world. She also co-edited, with Karen Loftus Carrington, the anthology Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of Terror (2011). In addition to her numerous books on society and ideas, Griffin has written several volumes of poetry, including Dear Sky (1971); Like the Iris of an Eye (1976); Unremembered Country (1987), which won the Commonwealth Club’s Silver Medal for Poetry; and Bending Home: Selected and New Poems 1967-1998 (1988).
 
Griffin’s poetry is known for its minimalist style and interest in politics and the domestic. Unremembered Country has been described as a poetic mosaic of female self-discovery. “All of the poems are written in a tightly controlled, minimal style,” commented Bill Tremblay in American Book Review, “that witnesses to the most serious crises in our lives, even to the ‘unspeakable’ cruelties, while at the same time not becoming ‘another facet of the original assault.’“ Griffin’s prose collections also consider ideas of crises and feminism, and are frequently as combative as they are elegant. The magazine Ms. described Griffin’s Woman and Nature as “cultural anthropology, visionary prediction, literary indictment, and personal claim. Griffin’s testimony about the lives of women throughout Western civilization reveals extensive research from Plato to Galileo to Freud to Emily Carr to Jane Goodall to Adrienne Rich… Griffin moves us from pain to anger to communion with and celebration of the survival of woman and nature,” the reviewer concluded. Griffin employed a similar approach in A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, an examination of the destruction of the bond between humankind and nature that is caused by war and violence. The book reveals a tapestry woven of personal memories, photographs, nonlinear history, and the individuals that figured in acts of warfare and social aggression in the twentieth century. In recent work such as Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy, and the anthology Transforming the Soul of Terror, Griffin continues to address pressing questions of the self and society.

The recipient of many honors and awards, Griffin was named by the Utne Reader as one of a hundred important visionaries for the new millennium. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and received a Macarthur Grant for Peace and International Cooperation. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages. Griffin lectures widely in the United States and abroad, and has taught at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Pacifica Graduate School, the Wright Institute, and the University of California. In 2012 she was the Bayard and John Cobb Peace Lecturer at the Naropa Institute.
 
Summing up her philosophy of writing, Griffin once told Contemporary Authors: “As a woman, I struggle to write from my life, to reflect all the difficulties, angers, joys of my existence in a culture that attempts to silence women, or that does not take our work, our words, or our lives seriously. In this, I am a fortunate woman, to be published, to be read, to be supported, and I live within a cultural and social movement aiming toward the liberation of us all. And within and also beyond all this I experience the transformations of my soul through the holy, the ecstatic, the painfully born or joyously made word. I know now that never when I begin to write will I truly know what or how my vision will become.”


Career

Poet. Ramparts (magazine), San Francisco, CA, assistant editor, 1966-68; San Francisco State College (now University), San Francisco, instructor in English, 1970-71; Poetry in the Schools program, teacher of poetry in Oakland, CA, high schools, 1972-73; University of California, Berkeley, extension school, instructor in English and women's studies, 1973-75; San Francisco State University, instructor, 1974-75. Visiting writer, Delta College of San Joaquin and Cazenovia College.

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Dear Sky, Shameless Hussy Press (Berkeley), 1971.
  • Voices (a play in poetry; first produced in San Francisco, 1974), Feminist Press (Old Westbury, NY), 1975.
  • Like the Iris of an Eye, Harper (New York City), 1976.
  • Unremembered Country: Poems, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1987.
  • Bending Home: Selected & New Poems, 1967-1998, Copper Canyon Press, 1998.
NONFICTION
  • Woman and Nature: The Roaring inside Her, Harper, 1978.
  • Rape: The Power of Consciousness, Harper, 1979.
  • Pornography and Silence: Culture’s Revolt against Nature, Harper, 1981.
  • A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, Doubleday, 1992.
  • (Contributor) Women Feminist Stories by New Fiction Authors, Eakins (New York City), 1971.
  • Le Viol, L’Etincelle (Canada), 1972.
  • Let Them Be Said, Mama Press, 1973.
  • Letters, Twowindows Press (Berkeley), 1973.
  • The Sink, Shameless Hussy Press, 1973.
  • (Author of foreword) Karen Brodine and others, Making the Park, Kelsey St. Press (Berkeley), 1976.
  • (Author of introduction) Valerie Miner, Movement, Crossing Press (Trumansberg, NY), 1982.
  • Made from This Earth: Selections from Her Writing, 1967-82, Women’s Press, 1982, published as Made from This Earth: An Anthology of Writings, Harper, 1983.
  • A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, Doubleday, 1992.
  • The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender and Society, Doubleday, 1995.
  • What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows, Harper San Francisco, 1999.
  • The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues, Broadway Books, 2001.
  • Wrestling with the Angel of Democracy: On Being an American Citizen, Trumpeter, 2008.
  • (Editor, with Karen Loftus Carrington) Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of Terror, University of California Press, 2011.
Contributor to numerous periodicals, including Aphra, Los Angeles Times, Ms., Ramparts, Shocks, Sundance, and Whole Earth Review.

 

Further Reading

BOOKS
  • Griffin, Susan, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War,Doubleday (New York City), 1992.
  • Shima, Alan, Skirting the Issue: Pursuing Language in the Works of Adrienne Rich, Susan Griffin, and Beverly Dahlen,Uppsala University Press (Uppsala, Sweden), 1993.
  • Yalom, Marilyn, editor, Women Writers of the West Coast, Capra (Santa Barbara), 1983.
PERIODICALS
  • American Book Review,November, 1988, p. 22.
  • Belles Lettres,winter, 1992-93, pp. 7-9.
  • Library Journal,December 1, 1976.
  • Los Angeles Times Book Review,January 17, 1993, pp. 4, 10.
  • Ms.,April, 1979; January, 1982.
  • New Republic,July 25, 1981.
  • New Statesman,November 6, 1981.
  • New Statesman and Society,May 22, 1994, pp. 40-41.
  • New York Times Book Review,July 12, 1981; November 22, 1992, p. 14.
  • Quill and Quire,September, 1981.
  • San Francisco Review of Books,winter, 1992, pp. 27, 38.
  • Times Literary Supplement,January 1, 1982.
  • Village Voice,July 15, 1981.
  • Wall Street Journal,January 5, 1993, p. A12.
  • Washington Post Book World,June 21, 1981.
  • Women's Review of Books, December, 1993, pp. 12-13.

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POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

LIFE SPAN 1943–

Biography

Poet, essayist, and playwright Susan Griffin was born in 1943 in Los Angeles, California. An early awareness of the horrors of World War II and her childhood in the High Sierras have had an enduring influence on her work, which includes poetry, prose, and mixed genre collections. A playwright and radical feminist philosopher, Griffin has also published two books in a proposed trilogy of “social autobiography.” Her work considers . . .

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