click for a few photographs
The night before, staying with Tom Pickard up on the moors, we looked at snatches of video of happier times (Durham, four years back). We picked up Bobby in Newcastle and eventually, thanks to a man with the air of local government who gave precise directions, twice, found the Crematorium. It was raining. The room was packed. High ceiling, purple curtains, plain tall windows showing ivy outside. No religious ceremonies for Bill, “Forever Young” playing as the coffin passed down the centre. Geraldine Monk read quietly. Nicolas Johnson followed. Bill Lancaster spoke eloquently. Family, friends, neighbours remembered Bill warmly in his many facets. There were people from far away, representatives from Northumbria University Press, writers with links to Bill going back more than thirty-five years. At the half-way point the sun came out turning the red and pale green ivy leaves into organic stained glass. Then the tall purple curtains closed.
At Seaham (rough sea, grey waves breaking)(the site of the colliery blowing grass with a sign advertising 400 houses to be built) there was whiskey, beer, tea: and a spread of cakes, pastries and pies Bill would have relished at the Vane-Tempest Miners Social Club. I noticed no representative of the Shun A’Biro Corporate Creative Writing bloc. But their Art-as-an-enticement-to-business ethos, re-forming history to pose in a suit against bad architecture, wouldn’t even notice the loss of a man who did more for the arts and culture of the North-East in two decades than they have clean shirts and mentors: and it must be hard to move with a Northern Rock tied around your ankles.
Joe Orton/Leonie Orton
Gangsters Some Specials & Lily Allen Live @ Glastonbury 23/06/07
Can’t Slow Down Brett Dennen So Much More
Think The ‘5’ Royals ‘5’ Royals – Vol.2 (thanks Bill)
All Along the Watchtower The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Go Nightly Cares Dowland/The Consort of Musicke A Pilgrimes Solace
The Streets of the Bronx Cool Change A Bronx Tale
Compared To What Eddie Harris and Les McCann Black Power: Music Of A Revolution 2
Hometown Glory (radio edit) Adele
Main Titles – Lola Theme #1 Peer Raben Lola
Direct Download jongram.mp3
A small homage to The Morden Tower, for now more than forty years the venue in the North East for poets from all over the world.
now only 99 cents US ! !
Bill’s funeral will be on Wednesday September 26th at Sunderland Crematorium at 2 p.m.
UPDATE 5pm September 17th. I’ve transferred the Bill Griffiths’ materials to here, where I’ll add anything new.
I’m away from home and my own machine until Monday, so can’t FTP or put much order or information in the Bill Griffiths’ entry below: my apologies… I’ll clean things up in a couple of days. There should be an obituary in The Independent sometime this week. For now I’ll add to the original entry.
Bill Sherman has a post on Bill here.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Chancellor Alistair Darling said: “The problem here is there is a lot of money in the system but they are reluctant to lend it to each other at the moment.”
A short and by inference (the first paragraph of the message vanished in transit) shocking note from Tom Pickard at dawn: I’m assuming Bill Griffiths is dead. Bill was a genuine in a poetic and academic world of mostly arseholes.
he was in hospital last week but discharged himself and went to do his dialect gig at the tower on Saturday but felt so ill he went yem half way through. I think it was a heart attack as he was found with the radio and tv and computer on. He’ll be badly missed â€“ such an asset to this region and a good comrade, like they say.
We exchanged notes only a week ago, about his Dialect talks at the Morden Tower: his last words:
Well, the first year we had about 5 visitors (by mistake?), 2nd year about 20 genuine callers, this year…whee knaas? Perhaps a riot over how to pronounce the word butterlowey, with defenestrations and arrows arc-ing ower the ramparts.
Assuming I get there myself. Prostate seems to be growing unduly, my photo must be on every CCTV in every public convenience in the region. Am due an op “in the next six months” but they have a grand sense of humour up here.
Hope celebrity Cambridge suits ye still. A friend’s mother lives in Trumpington, which is a bend in the road and a few houses and an admirable church. She is now an old widow with a cat, how about that!
Have run out of rhymes, but save some up for Saturday,
We won’t, Bill: and I fucking regret it.
Bill Griffiths was born in Middlesex in 1948, studied history and later Old English language and literature at London University, worked for a while in Germany, and is now based at Seaham in County Durham.
By instinct a poet, Bill was first published in Poetry Review in the early 70s when it was edited by Eric Mottram (remembered for his support of innovative American and English poetry, and for his dedication as teacher at King’s College London). Subsequent work was produced in collaboration with Bob Cobbing’s Writers Forum, a vast little press that concentrates on (celebrates might be a better word) booklets of experimental writing, visual poetry, and much more,
From manual typewriter, stencil and Gestetner, to PC and photocopier; from stapled miniature and appearance in little mags to larger commercial texts; from creative writing to vivid translation to a PhD in Old English; and from suburban sunny lodgings to canal houseboat to a terrace half-house in County Durham, Bill’s work and life has covered a remarkable range, reflected in the variety and number of his publications currently in print.
Durham and Around is a two-volume production covering dialect literature and vocabulary in the north-east; also booklets on local history and local government, essays on reality as a lever of social control, a review of the history of the concept of the soul – these are issued by Bill’s own press, Amra Imprint, along with the poetry titles Starfish Jail (written to raise funds for a prisoner in Wandsworth) and Lion Man (a fantasy after Bob Marley).
A few quick notes from recent emails:
from Ken Edwards:
Bill was a terrific poet. He visited us in Hastings at New Year â€“ he was staying with his sister, who lives here. He and Elaine played some piano duets. Last saw him on television being interviewed about his book about Northumbrian minersâ€™ dialect.
from Clive Bush:
I’m very upset about it indeed, and shall simply deeply miss his wonderfully funny, dry and insouciant conversation. Only a couple of days ago he sent me some Tchaikovsky piano duet Russian dances we were going to play together.
One of the very very best not that this filthy culture will ever understand that….
from Thomas Evans:
It’s stunning news, although in latter years the first Bill-related image I conjure is of him wheezing and panting. But your note was helpful and warming to read from this distanced outpost. He was my first friend in BritPo realms, always completely welcoming of myself and my friends (as long as they weren’t poetry peops). I’m trying to recall the name of a young kid he was helping, when we first met, who’d been in and out of jail a lot â€“ perhaps Damon? â€“ but anyway I certainly recall the sub-current of support and encouragement he lent him. Once he came to stay when I was in Edinburgh, and took me to a wonderful piano museum that no-one (including me) seemed to know of. We strolled down there â€“ it was on the Grassmarket â€“ knocked, and the door was opened by a nice enough but vaguely prissy curator, who gave Bill (in his shiny shell suit etc) the once-over and quivered slightly. Bill then promptly freaked his mind by dashing off some Scarlatti sonata from memory, on an old harpsichord the curator had invited him to play. Last time I saw him, actually, was at a piano auction at Conway Hall, in late 2004. And we exchanged emails a couple of months ago. But I would have liked to have seen him more recently than I did.
Somewhere online there’s a poem we supposedly collaborated on, but that only meant that he interwove journal notes from my months in Burma with a poem of his on Buddhist architecture.
Another Bill recollection just comes to me, him describing Barry MacSweeney’s funeral and sitting with you and Tom Pickard, devising epitaphs for BM. I remember him enjoying yours, “He rests with the onions.” I also now recall Bill doing a reading in Edinburgh with a couple of really dull un-named poets. They were all sat on a makeshift stage together, and Bill fell asleep, snoring so loudly that he drowned out the reader â€“ but no-one was prepared to wake him. Then of course when it ended and the applause came, Bill was stirred and joined in. Personally, I was applauding him. That was a great moment. And a missed Writer’s Forum publication: transcription of Bill Griffiths snoring to the verse of [ ].
from Katherine Pickard:
yes mum and dad are devastated, mum especially as she was with him on the Saturday day doing the dialect day, she said he had to leave half way through as he was really ill which was unlike him. I have added a Tower blog, linked from the home page: I guess the first post will be a tribute to Bill. Never used a blog before. Another learning curve.
We have one of Bill’s poems on the poem page at the moment – to coincide with his dialect day – so I can leave it at the top for little while longer in light of the news.
from John Muckle
So sorry to hear about poor Bill. I loved him dearly. I can’t believe it!
from Trevor Joyce:
Just saw your note about Bill Griffiths, and it was a shock. Only time I ever met him was in 2005, but I liked him a lot, and we were planning to invite him back when there was a smaller crowd here, and less noise, because his voice was quiet and got drowned out. He was the best critic of those readings he attended, because he’d often just nod off and snore like a buzz-saw from the back of the room.
Well, I’m glad I got to meet him even the once.
from Charles Bernstein:
I knew Bill through his work and had no idea what he would be like when I finally met him. His writing had a swiftness and necessity and I guess freedom only dreamt of in much else. And his particular constellation of style and person is undeniably unexpected and stunning.
I was very taken with Bill’s poems, but also his translations and his dialect work. He came to Buffalo maybe ten years back, must have been a rare visit to the U.S., and he was great. I am sure I have a recording, for PennSound at some future time.
from John Seed:
Three emails arrived within an hour of each other on Friday afternoon with the dreadful bloody news and it’s still sinking in 48 hours later.
He emailed me last Friday saying he wasn’t well but was looking forward to his next trip to London early in October and then in November another jaunt with Shim to Hungary, which he loved:
Have booked a week in London 9 â€“ 15 Oct, will surely see you then, and off to Budapest in early November â€“ just as the coffee/wine/truffle season starts…
but good to hear from you
So much knowledge and understanding, so many connections and future projects involving so many different people, have now been wiped out by Bill’s disappearance â€“ a big torn Bill-shaped hole. I wonder if he knew how loved he was by so many people.
I also attach a photograph of Bill in September 2004, sitting on top of Richmond Hill, in characteristic pose.
Photo by John Seed
click for larger image
from Peter Finch:
Just back from France to discover the loss of Bill. Younger than me. We were due to do a final alp blow out reading in the new year, to celebrate his big books and my selected. Been a time since he came to Wales and wonâ€™t again now. Iâ€™d known him since the 60s. Great man with such a range.
There are a few pictures of Bill in the batch on an occasion at The Baltic five years ago.
I know; once things go offscreen. I also know terrible things happen every second all over the globe. But a possible 22 years for a schoolyard fight? A tennis shoe as “a deadly weapon”? If you’ve not been following this, check it. Just human beings and other stupidly vicious human beings.
Blue Shadows On The Trail Roy Rogers Billboard Top Country Singles Of 1948
African Breakfast Bongo Herman and Eric “Bingy Bunny” Lamont Trojan Nyahbinghi Box Set
Thou Shalt Always Kill (FBS – Dean La Roc mix Dan le Sac VS Scroobius Pip
Porto Novo Marion Brown Porto Novo
Direct Download flam.mp3
A little later he thanked Mr Howard’s soldiers for serving in Iraq, referring to them as Austrian troops.
Horrified White House officials quickly set about correcting official tapes of the speech so the word came out as “Australian”, but journalists’ tape recorders had trapped the error.
From the Chicago Tribune‘s report on an article in the current Science magazine on the declining bee population:
The cutting-edge technique the team used to isolate the virus may find applications with human diseases as well. Instead of trying to culture bacteria or isolate viruses — often a lengthy process — the researchers ground up the bees and rapidly sifted through all of the genetic material in search of a suspicious microorganism.
Radio Nowhere Bruce Springsteen Radio Nowhere
This Nearly Was Mine Cecil Taylor The World Of Cecil Taylor
Fat Boy Billy Stewart One More Time: The Chess Years
Keep On Churnin’ Wynonie Harris Bloodshot Eyes
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child Sun Ra Solo Piano Volume 1
You Walked Away Madeleine Bell/Blue Mink Our World
Direct Download: b4.mp3