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POET-IN-RESIDENCE BIO

Bill Griffin

Poet Bill Griffin

Bill Griffin is a family physician and geriatrician in rural North Carolina.  His poems have appeared in many regional and national journals including Tar River Poetry, Poem, NC Literary Review, Pembroke Magazine, and Southern Poetry Review.  In 2010 the choral suite The Wanderer's Carols, lyrics by Bill, music by Mark Daniel Merritt, premiered for Christmas at Biltmore House.  Bill's published collections include Barb Quill Down (Pudding House 2004), Changing Woman (Main Street Rag 2006), and little mouse (Main Street Rag 2011).

In 2008 Bill collaborated with his wife, artist and historian Linda French Griffin, to produce Snake Den Ridge, a bestiary (March Street Press).  In these poems, each of which is accompanied by Linda's unique drawings, the wild creatures of Snake Den Ridge speak to the reader in their own distinctive voices.  At times playful, at other times reflective, instructive, even menacing, each creature has its own perspective and wisdom to impart.  Raven, Hawk, Vireo--Bear, Bobcat, Squirrel--Crayfish, Salamander, Beetle and more--these animals allow us to experience the natural world with new eyes.  In the words of NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byers, "I wanted to carry on the conversation long after the last poem!"

Bill has served as treasurer of the NC Poetry Society since 2001.  In 2011 the Society's annual anthology, Pinesong, was dedicated to him.  Bill promotes the work of North Carolina poets at his blog GriffinPoetry.com, which also includes an album of native wildflower photographs.

Poet's Statement:  Conservation and the North Carolina Zoo

I know if I find you I will have to leave the earth
and go out
over the sea marshes and the brant in bays
and over the hills of tall hickory
and over the crater lakes and canyons
and on up through the spheres of diminishing air

In these opening lines of Hymn by A.R. Ammons, what is the you he longs to find?  Scientific truth?  The nature of reality?  A divine Creator?  Whether venturing outward into the vastness of space or peering downward to microscopic sporangia or coelenterates, discovery leads to this:

You are everywhere partial and entire
You are on the inside of everything and on the outside

No way, to paraphrase John Muir, to pick things apart.  Nothing separate.  Nothing in isolation.

The feeling I experience each time I re-read this poem is the same experience I've had every time I've walked the North Carolina Zoo.  Watching the lemurs on their island when suddenly a fat black snake meanders across the walkway in front of me.  Wildflowers blooming among the rhododendrons along the path to the baboons' village.  Scattered grassland ungulates grazing in the distance while in the foreground a yellowthroat sings.  This NC Zoo, rather than requiring me to imagine some distant habitat where these exotic animals actually reside, startles me into the realization that we all inhabit the same place.  This is the planet we share.  To truly love my little patch of earth, must I not love equally well the patch under your feet, under their feet, all little patches?

I walk down the path down the hill where the sweetgum
has begun to ooze spring sap at the cut
and I see how the bark cracks and winds like no other bark
chasmal to my ant-soul running up and down
and if I find you I must go out deep into your
far resolutions
and if I find you I must stay here with the separate leaves

[from Hymn, A.R. Ammons, from Collected Poems: 1951-1971.  Copyright (c) 1960 by A.R. Ammons]