The latest collection from Eyewear Publishing is Mariela Griffor’s The Psychiatrist, which draws together poems spanning a 25 year period (1986 – 2011). The collection is divided into three parts with poems from Exiliana (Luna Publications, 2007), from House (Mayapple Press, 2007) and a larger section of new poems. Griffor offers us startling autobiographical poems, lays herself bare to our scrutiny and gives us a place to journey alongside her.
Exiliana charts the time in Griffor’s life in the underground Chilean revolutionary of the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR).
In the first poem, Prologue I, Griffor invents a “you” which she carries through this section – it’s a voice she can talk to, an ear that can hear her, a way she can express how she feels, how the world feels and above all it becomes a way of surviving.
Out here, the snow is an insider,
its the haute couture of my days.
I invent a friend to pour out
remembrances of the old country.
Out here, I invent new sounds, new men, new women.
I assassinate the old days with nostalgia.
I don’t see but invent a city and its people, its fury, its sky.
I don’t belong to the earth but to the air.
As I invent you, I invent myself.
In 1985 her fiancé, Julio Santibáñez is murdered after which her exile in Sweden begins.
What do we do with the love if you die?
Do we put it in your coffin
together with the green, red and gray plaid shirt
you like so much?
With your khaki pants
and light brown shoes,
the ones you use in normal life?
Or do we wrap it around
the flag the Patriotic Front militia
will bring to cover you?
I spend nights sleepless
thinking about what to do
with the love if you die.
(From Love for a subversive)
This section rings clear as a bell, the poems balance horror with the beauty of language – there is disillusion, disappointment and heart-wrenching death of the young, but throughout, Griffor is tightly in control as she unpeels her history, layer by layer with the skill of a surgeon:
What can be more tragic than to die young?
The death of someone younger, maybe,
or the indifference of people to such deaths.
From House Griffor has selected two poems Thirty: just in time for José Miguel Cruz where she “[d]reams of the ocean cold, dangerous, deep, dark, blue at dusk and dawn” and “[t]he sweet, bitter sandy taste of an oyster with lemon/reminded me of a place I was willing to die for”. Poem without a number: house is equally evocative, though in this she recounts her insomniac state:
I think about you and
the vision of my father fallen to his knees
praying for a miracle while
the rain disappears
in front of me.
The new poems make up the largest section of the collection and includes the disquieting title poem, The Psychiatrist.
If I remember correctly, I could not cry
until the baby was born. They wanted to shoot him.
I understood why Manuel Fernandez wanted
me to stay at the hospital after the birth.
I never told him anything about the group.
I could not trust him. I had to be strong
for my child. I needed to go to the pump room
and leave my milk. You are suffering a post
partum depression, he told me, before I shot him,
like the many other voices in my head.
Here we read poems of motherhood, alienation, political unrest and life under the “Scandinavian skies”. Griffor offers something new with each poem, she never overburdens us, but she doesn’t spare us either. It’s a tough read, exquisitely written and haunting.
Mariela Griffor is an editor, translator and poet. She was born in the city of Concepcion in southern Chile. She is the author of Exiliana (2007) and House (2007) and founder of Marick Press. Mariela holds an MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. Her forthcoming publications include the translations Canto General by Pablo Neruda (Tupelo Press, 2013), and Bye, have a good time! by Kristina Lugn.
Here is the distinct voice of a poet stepping forward from her double tradition of American and Latin- American poetry. – Håkan Sandell
Her most affecting lines are phrased simply, often with a vulnerable air, yet they are tough. These lines carry great weight: that is no small achievement. – Robin Fulton