“It is reported that the poet Randall Jarrell gave up his job as literary editor of The Nation because he felt that so many of the poems submitted to him consisted of nothing more than simple, unrelieved human pain. He likened the process of editing poetry to opening a manila envelope and discovering that someone had ripped off a limb and sent it along. It is too bad that Jarrell did not love to read Eliza Griswold's book of poems, Wideawake Field. There is human pain here, certainly, but it is neither simple nor unrelieved. These poems are by one who has both seen and experienced suffering and loss. But for all the misery she knows, the speaker here knows something about joy and transcendence as well. Wideawake Field consists of five groupings of brief lyrics. The movement of these sections mirrors the inward-outward movement from the personal to the political and back again . . . Aside from the many formal and literary excellences of these poems, one of their great strengths is the way they merge the personal and the social. In an age when much poetry is either personal or political, Griswold presents us with a speaker who cannot express herself without appealing to both vocabularies. Griswold's verse is also 'witty' in the sense that John Donne's poems are witty. Again and again, the reader discovers sly allusions that often skew overt meanings . . . Like spirituality, writing poetry is about becoming fully conscious. Eliza Griswold's poems are themselves a kind of 'wideawake field,' a space where thought meets feeling, a zone of conscious, attentive noticing and connecting. There is both mordant wit and deep wisdom here. And the verse itself is both formally spare and verbally playful.”—Gary R. Hall, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Anglican Theological Review “Eliza Griswold’s brief poems excel in that most difficult work of the writer—not to speak to excess and yet not to say a small thing. Her poems, which treat of both personal intimacy and of the anguish so present now in our trouble-laden world are, at the same time, concise, resonant, empathetic, angry, and luminous.”—Mary Oliver
Eliza Griswold is the recipient of the first Robert I. Friedman Prize in Investigative Journalism and is a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, where she is at work on a nonfiction book, The Tenth Parallel, also to be published by FSG.
Listen to Eliza Griswold read the poem "Tigers" from her book Wideawake Field.