Publication date: 1999
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Bathing in the River of Ashes
Shaun Griffin is a poet of impassioned engagement—in the common joys and suffering of the human experience, in the natural world, in the complexity of language and the poet's craft. Whether considering Somalia, Latin America, Nevada's drab mining towns and prisons, or the Las Vegas Strip, he speaks with compassion. Yet Griffin's compelling poems are also rich in humor, sympathy, and images of power and beauty—desert magpies circling a dead comrade "with the last dry speech of family"; a newly released prisoner returning to freedom who "breathed sky and bore no sadness." And in the title poem, an evocation of the turbulent life of the great Ganges River, he leaves us with an image of "Women, thinned with pride," who "Walk / the streets that empty to homes . . . laughing, / with children in a wrinkle of quiet feet."
"The force of sympathy in these poems is so great that it virtually runs off the page, like sweat or blood. They are compelling poems, not solely because of their expressive feeling but because of their honesty and their unflinching vision of what is." —Hayden Carruth
"For those who don’t know Tonopah from Toledo, Shaun Griffin’s poems provide a glimpse into the real west—into the ordinary lives of workers and convicts, the death of a bookstore, the bare survival of small towns and the weirdness of Las Vegas. Here too are glimpses of Somalia, Latin America and the eternal Ganges River where the political and the poetical clarify one another. He writes with unflinching honesty and sweet compassion." —Sam Hamill, Copper Canyon Press
"The second full-length volume by this Nevada-based poet, who edited anthologies of regional literature, is itself part of the publisher's Western Literature Series, and rightly so, since Griffin derives much of his inspiration from the landscape and people who live on the new western prairie where there are few wild things left. Solemn and mournful, Griffin's plain verse bemoans the neon lights of Vegas, the porcine tourists, and laments the closed mines, the decline in agriculture, and the diminishing wilderness." —Kirkus Reviews
"Griffin often presents a Nevada that seems to fade away the closer you get to it, like one of those mid-road mirages at the top of the next hill that just isn't there when you reach it." —Martin Naparsteck, Salt Lake City Tribune, May 16, 1999