Mariela Griffor

Mariela Griffor: The Psychiatrist


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.

Prologue I

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 Heartland)

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.


marielaMariela 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.

Eyewear Publishing
70 pages
Price £12.99

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

Todd Swift

Todd Swift: Featured Poet

Summer Solstice, Villa Bled, Slovenia

Tito’s getaway in the Julian Alps
has a lake cut from a glacier.
The architecture is monumental, retro,
June sees the blue-green water halted
in its heat; gondolas with another name
move people out at commercial intervals
to the medieval church on the one island
in this small, historic country. Once there
they can enter the picturesque
and pull the bell’s knotted rope;
your wish goes with each weighted fall
of the body with the arms. Everyone
in the town of Bled can hear the throng
of peels. Here we are, in the postcard.
Hip, rich and uncertain how we love,
but not too unsure; each has accidents
in the past that make us unlikely to be hard
enough for our own good, but we can be cold.
The view would make Wordsworth write
poetry. Not all of it good.  Memory
rewrites greatness like it does
our faults; Was Tito faithful, this partisan liberator
to his wife?  The church bells ring again –
some kid from Austria hoping for a loose buck tooth,
the guy with FRANK on his silver Cadillac
parked at the wish-rope, wanting more fish on the fork.
Beauty is where we visit, and pay for it.
I am glad I came. I know, with how we know things
in our informed age – with that tingle of knowledge
somewhere approaching pain – that this is
where I have always wanted to be. Near God,
and near totalitarian places, both similar, and serene,
I feel France Preseren’s Slovenian adulation for Nature,
and know, as if told by someone who I trust –
and always will – that here in Alpine climes –
two thousand metre peaks in the distance –
snow-capped, sublime, higher than any bird will go,
it is the best we can do to recognise what is special,
then blanche the acknowledgement with silent innocence
and then leave, and with it, take the cynical;
because, when we see and feel something rare and pure,
that too is a subject for the soul to torture and control,
or to fondle to kindness in the eye’s pleading bowl.
Bled is serious, and permanent, and she more beautiful
than I. This I will take to my personal history, until dead.
And what else, except for tragedy and birth, is there,
to sing, or singe with lunatic light, the shutterbug’s impulse
to cover every wondrous shape? Only, that even
after Tito and such stark buildings, we are this gently
capable of soft remembering. On the longest day of summer.


Todd Swift was born in Montreal, Canada, on Good Friday. After working as a successful TV writer in his 20s (HBO, Fox, Paramount, Hanna-Barbera, CBC, etc.), he moved to Europe in 1997 – first Budapest then Paris, where he organised literary events, lectured, and edited anthologies.  A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at UEA, he is a Lecturer at the Kingston Writing School, Kingston University, Surrey. His critical study of Anglo-Quebec poetry, Language Acts, co-edited with Jason Camlot, was a finalist for the 2007 Gabrielle Roy Prize. His Seaway: New and Selected Poems was published by Salmon in 2008.  He co-edited Modern Canadian Poets (Carcanet, 2010) with Evan Jones.  Poems of his have appeared in New American Writing, Poetry, Poetry London, Poetry Review, The Guardian ReviewThe Daily Telegraph and The Globe and Mail.  He has new collections forthcoming from DC Books and Tightrope Books and is currently editing Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam.  He blogs as Eyewear.  He is married and lives in London.