Walter Griffin (b. 1937)
Griffin was born on August 1, 1937, in Wilmington, Delaware, the only child of Nina Blalock and William Samuel Griffin. A year after Griffin was born, his father abandoned the family, and Griffin and his mother relocated to Florida. He spent his childhood in Florida and South Carolina, and from 1951 to 1954 he attended Gordon Military College in Barnesville, Georgia. His mother remarried, and Griffin spent a year living in Europe with her and his stepfather. To avoid being drafted into the French army, he joined the U.S. Army in Germany in 1955 and served in the infantry for three years. In 1956 Griffin was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Married and divorced, Griffin has one son, Paul Anthony, who teaches high school German in Decatur and also writes poetry.
In 1972 Griffin founded the Atlanta Poets Workshop for aspiring and published poets. The group met in various locations around Atlanta until 1998, when health problems caused Griffin to end the workshop.
Although this award-winning poet has more than 400 national and international publications to his credit,
As Griffin told Contemporary Authors, "In my poems, I attempt to deal with middle America and isolation, the inherent loneliness of the human spirit." He sees himself as an outsider looking in, one who brings to his poetry his own childhood hurts and adolescent rootlessness. The speaker in a Griffin poem often longs to be elsewhere, hidden from the rest of the world, and is aware of his physical self and mortality. Griffin is adept at creating in his poetry a presence who watches as others move and who is isolated in the world he portrays. For example, the speaker in "Vagrant" identifies himself as "the brother of all mad men, / in bus station lobbies and rented rooms, / the lover of all my waitress sisters." In "At the All Night Cafeteria" the speaker reviews the ghostlike photographs of his past: "I take them out on the counter, / decide which ones to have dinner with. / Their cracked and folded smiles / lie amid the crumbs." Alone with the photographs, he will "crawl inside the circled edges and / hold their faded white hands."
Griffin's poetry collections are Leaving for New York (1968), Other Cities (1971), Bloodlines (1972), Ice Garden (1973), Night Music (1974), Port Authority: Selected Poems, 1965-1976 (1976), and Machineworks (1976). Machineworks was published in the Sweetwater Southern Poetry Series, for which Georgia poet David Bottoms served as series editor. Night Music won both the International Small Press Book Award and Georgia Poet of the Year Award from the Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists. More recent publications include Western Flyers (1990), which won the University of West Florida's Panhandler Series competition, and Nights of Noise and Light (1999).
Griffin lives in East Point.
Contemporary Authors, vols. 73-76 (Detroit: Gale, 1978), s.v. "Griffin, Walter."
Hugh Ruppersburg, ed., Georgia Voices: Poetry (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000).
Gary Kerley, North Hall High School
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