Henry Griffith - Because everyone deserves a song | Street Jazz

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Henry Griffith - Because everyone deserves a song

Posted By on Sat, May 9, 2009 at 11:46 PM

I don’t believe that anyone should leave without a song, and if anyone deserves one, it is Henry Griffith, who was part of the Northwest Arkansas community for many years. Many will recall seeing his name in Grapevine many years ago.  I put out the call for tributes to Henry, and Linda Farrell and Dick Bennett both responded with lovely pieces. 


On Henry

As an occasional writer of Letters-to-the-Editor, I am moved to submit the following missive. No current editor in North West Arkansas would risk his job publishing this letter so very few people will ever see it. He'd also be risking his life in publishing it, given the preponderance of god-fearing, heat-packing, bible thumping, church-going, right-leaning Christians in this part of the country. But I shall not be denied my right to free - albeit unpopular - speech because what I have to say is absolutely necessary at this time for me to keep my sanity, and faith in a sense of justice, intact.

My writing buddy, Henry Griffith, has passed away and I am, justifiably, very, very pissed at "the almighty" right about now. Therefore, employing my usual  style of making points based on an examination of facts, pros, cons,  comparisons and stuff I absolutely know to be true or can at least confirm on  "Snopes," - and without the slightest intention of offending the self-righteous  or even the rationally religious among us - I will now compare Henry Griffith  to god.











a patriot

an environmentalist

a respected colleague

a scholar

a cherished friend

a blessing in my life


god is.

a shmuck

Linda Farrell (Pissed off and heading straight to hell)


Henry Griffith is Going Away

In short space, who can celebrate Henry Dale Griffith better than the obituary in the newspapers? From Springfield to Little Rock, New Orleans, Eureka Springs, West Fork. From bookstore to bartending, trolley to Tao, film to farm.

And love of animals and women. And politics and poetry .

I once saw Henry at a distance talking with another tall poet who also valued the concrete in language, and I felt reassured, for a moment,  of our future.

So figurative are Henry's characteristic poems in *Wounds in the Left Eye, *that they compel you to see and feel the experience, force you out of your normal orientation. "Whatever Happened to That Man in England Who Was Eating a Car?" by extraordinary hyperbole conveys the experience of intense hunger, the car-eater always present to the speaker of the poem. "I half expect him to swallow the sidewalk." The speaker is at the end still able to startle us with his hunger--omnivorous, "a taste for everything equally,/like a goat, like a cannibal, like God."

And this infusion of magical, dislocating language pervades his poems about love. In "Because a Blaze of Light," which is "much to be distrusted," after "my name came/ out of her mouth/ and burned like a bush/ among the hundred tongues," and then time passed, "my words,/ rekindling, grind like sticks." And his poems on death explore its strangeness.

The speaker of "After the Death of Chris Shearouse" feels "silly,/ being inside a body,/ now that you are not in yours." "Chris, like children, let's make believe/ these words still work between us."

So Henry has not gone away, but as one poem declares ("Henry Griffith is Going Away" ), "Hear how his laughter flaps like the wings of a bird escaping from its cage"

Dick Bennett



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