Wideawake Field Poems

Eliza Griswold

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

88 Pages



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The chairs have come in and the crisp yellow thwock of the ball being hit says somehow, now that it’s fall, I’m a memory of myself. My whole old life—I mourn you sometimes in places you would have been.                                     October The poems in this fierce debut are an attempt to record what matters. As a reporter’s dispatches, they concern themselves with different forms of desolation: what it means to feel at home in wrecked places and then to experience loneliness and dislocation in the familiar. The collection arcs between internal and external worlds—the disappointment of returning, the guilt and thrill of departure, unexpected encounters in blighted places—and, with ruthless observations etched in the sparest lines, the poems in Wideawake Field sharply and movingly navigate the poles of home and away.


Praise for Wideawake Field

“A freelance reporter, she [Griswold] has been conducting research throughout Asia for several months; now she was working on an article for Harper’s Magazine about prisoners’ experiences in U.S. detention centers. As the car rolled along, Griswold pulled out her notebook. ‘The quince-colored smear / of first light,’ she wrote, ‘the dove of mud and rubble, / the scrap of frock, torn / in mourning and tied to a grace, / will blow away. / What would feed your eye?’ This is how Griswold usually composes her poems . . . The poems in Wideawake Field reflect Griswold’s ambitious roaming. They take place in Afghanistan and Columbia, in various American cities, in unnamed places, and in places, like Nepalgunj, that you've probably never heard of. Their language is stark and straightforward . . . Inevitably, many of the poems describe desolate or tense scenes, brief moments that seem from an outsider’s perspective to be emblematic of struggle in far-off places. In that sense, Griswold’s poetry performs a service as vital as her journalism—it brings the reader up close to realities he might otherwise never confront.”—Amy Rosenberg, Poets & Writers 
“Eliza Griswold’s debut collection of poetry, Wideawake Field, radiates through a journalistic eye. Perhaps this is too easy a comment given the author’s background in reporting, but it’s hard to avoid. The short, unornamented lines, terse titles, and quick but conversational rhymes move like field notes, like a dairy kept under fear of forgetting the essentials. Griswold’s verse is starkly observational, yet humanly committed. Its impetus might be empirically minded reporting, but these poems allow, via graceful metaphor and astute reflection, the presence of person inside their descriptions of war, isolation, alienation, and family.”—Thea Brown, The L Magazine

“Griswold’s experience on the front lines makes her a rare American poet of witness.”—Carrie Fountain, Austin American-Statesman

“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

“Some of the strengths of Eliza Griswold’s first book are immediately apparent. They include an assured authority of tone, language of repeatedly astonishing transparency, images that emerge out of each poem’s invisible source, vivid and revelatory even when they appear to overlap like double exposures. Her subjects are raw, wrenching, and she makes them ours. This is writing of true originality, that seems to have started out knowing where it was going.”—W.S. Merwin
“Eliza Griswold's Wideawake Field is a book of compelling authority by a young poet who already understands, and stands ready to renew, poetry's most ancient tasks—to bring the news, to sing the human in the midst of its destruction, to register truths, to open our eyes.  The broken world is one world in her poems.  She draws tenderness from brutality, an idyll from a panic, and lyric not from interlude, but everywhere.”—Susan Stewart

Prince of the Dolomites
In Another Year of Fewer Disappointments
For my Father on his Birthday
Berry Picking
Foreign Correspondence
Border Ballad
Buying Rations in Kabul
A Longer Goodbye
Come and See
How To
Hi-Lo Country
Water Cure
At The King David
Leaving the Valley
The Politics of Dreams
Beyond the Solace of a Devastated Landscape
Modern City
What Went Wrong
Wideawake Field

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

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.
Read the full excerpt


  • Eliza Griswold

  • 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.
  • Eliza Griswold © Guillermo Riveros


    Eliza Griswold

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