Bill Griffin's SNAKE DEN RIDGE has become one of my favorite books. I've become fond of all these animals' voices, each one with its own personality. What a great text this would make for writing students! Doesn't everyone want to imagine a way into being an animal? SNAKE DEN RIDGE is on my list of recommended books for k-12 teachers of writing and poetry, and for everybody else, too.
Reading by Bill Griffin of his own poetry and a display of Linda French Griffin's art
McIntyre's in Fearrington Village. It's Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Co-sponsored with the NC Poetry Society.
Manager ~ Buyer
McIntyre's Fine Books & Bookends
220 Market Street Fearrington Village
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Direct Tel: 919/545-5727, Main Tel: 919/542-3030
BILL GRIFFIN is a family doctor in rural North Carolina, where his ‘writers’ group’ is a hawkswept footpath that wanders the crest of the Blue Ridge. His poems have appeared in many regional and national journals, including Tar River Poetry, POEM, NC Literary Review, Pembroke Magazine, and Illuminations. He has two chapbooks in print: Barb Quill Down (Pudding House 2004) and Changing Woman (Main Street Rag 2006).
Every summer Bill assists Mike Barnett with High Adventure Camp, leading a small crew of teenagers on their first backpacking experience in the southern Appalachian wilderness. They hope to instill in the young people not only a greater sense of self-reliance and teamwork, but also a deep sense of connection to earth, water, sky, and all life. For a week in 2007 Bill and Mike hiked Snake Den Mountain and its connecting trails; they encountered most of the creatures that speak in this collection (especially Mouse!).
Bill and his wife Linda have collaborated on plenty of creative endeavors during their 35-year marriage (including raising their two children, creative in their own right), but Snake Den Ridge: A Bestiary is their first book project undertaken together.
LINDA FRENCH GRIFFIN is a self-taught artist and trained historian who studies human attitudes and actions toward the natural world in Europe and America during the late medieval and early modern periods. Her writings and printed designs analyze and often celebrate this complex relationship. Many of her pieces have been adopted by religious publishing houses and international peace organizations because of their emphasis upon reconciliation, stewardship of Earth, and spiritual harmony.
Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge since 1981 with Bill and their growing family, Linda feels daily the inspiration of the surrounding natural wonders and the vital importance of their preservation. She and Bill hike local mountain and river trails regularly, and support environmental protection efforts of many local and national groups, including the Piedmont Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, Cornell Ornithology Lab, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
While engaged in their joint venture of Snake Den Ridge: A Bestiary, the Griffins eagerly awaited the arrival of their first grandchild.
SNAKE DEN RIDGE – a bestiary
March Street Press (marchstreetpress.com)
Greensboro, NC 27408
© 2008 Bill and Linda French Griffin
I’m not going to say this twice.
The sum and product of words
is no mark of intelligence.
Case in point – cousin Crow,
not half as smart as all his talk.
I know three things:
Sky, that small kiss of warm air
that rises through my primaries;
the Water on its breath, ridgeblown mist
that bathes us all and makes springs
overflow into Inadu Creek;
and Earth, slope and cup of cove,
the steep that gathers with wide black wings
to draw down Sky,
draw Water up,
that sets free all things green
into a world first fledged.
I know from twenty circles
of snowdeep and hungry moons
and twenty circles of fresh shoots
that Sky . . . Water . . . Earth . . .
none of them are mine.
And I know none are yours.
This is my gift –
From Inadu Creek I leave behind
my frilly gills and climb
the spire of blue-eyed grass.
Having become a creature of air bathing
myself in dew, am I not still
a creature of water?
I invite you to discover
in each of my family our variations,
discern that every runnel, every spring,
every palm-sized cup of moisture
holds its lithe expectation, for this
is my gift to you –
to notice changes.
I will let you lightly touch
the welcome of my smoothness
while I drink a little warmth
from your hand. Now count
the dapples down my length,
measure the blush of my cheek,
then find when you descend
the eastern face of Snake Den Ridge
those subtle alterations my cousins
are accumulating until finally
they acquire a new name.
And when you have returned me
to my bed of blue-bead lily, then touch
a smooth place within yourself
and carry with you into the world
your own changes.
Today Inadu Creek’s so clear
it’s like swimming in the sky.
Oh yes, sky . . . for even Trout
look up, if usually for the hopeful
rainfall of Mayflies, then again sometimes
to dream of discovering
a hatching out of stars
that sprinkle down the stream of night
between the blackgum leaves.
Heaven isn’t the other side
of darkness, it’s here
above the rocky spray that holds
piscivorous Brown and Rainbow down
in Cosby Creek, and here below
the love embrace of shade
that drips manna
every morning from its leaves.
Look closely. Learn heaven’s language
scripted on my sides –
ripple shadow of pure water,
lace of insect wings,
gold and silver speckle stars –
kisses of God.
If you hear me, it will be a nut falling
from the buckeye. If you hear me,
it will be a dry branch
it will be slender fingers
of mountain ash waving praises
to the ridgelined sky.
If you see me, it will be a shadow
only one breath deeper
If you see me, it will be the twist
of heart that skips
a beat, the stark
of pupils gone abruptly wide.
I am mist that enfolds the laurel.
I am stone that reclines beneath black hemlocks.
I am a rumor at Maddron Bald,
a tremor at Mt. Guyot.
Raven is mistaken – this Ridge is mine.
And if you hear me, it will be the rising chest
of the mountain and its timeless slow
and if you hear me
it will only be because
I didn’t hear you first.
Click on the poem to make it larger--it's a jpg image.
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