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This report is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.

Bill Griffiths 1948-2007 John Muckle

Bill (Brian) Griffiths was brought up in Middlesex, the son of a piano teacher. As a young man he became involved in a motorcycling brotherhood (the Uxbridge Nomads) and his first published poems, some of which appeared in Poetry Review, tell of their adventures and troubles. He studied at the University of London, later completed a PhD in Anglo-Saxon there and emerged as a prolific poet in an idiom that cross-pollinated Black Mountain and San Francisco poetics with Anglo-Saxon, Romany and other dialect borrowings. He translated many early English poems, including The Battle of Maldon, and became an expert on the language and history of the North East, producing epic poetry, local histories, anthologies, dialect dictionaries and studies, including his final book, Pitmatic, a study of miners' dialects. His poetry is powerful, original, and closely identified with its working-class subjects. Other intellectual interests included Rousseau, Darwin and the History of the Soul. He continued to love music and was an accomplished classical pianist.

Bill's early biker affiliations and brushes with the law left him with a distrust of settled communities and a desire to live in a self-defining way. For a long time he lived on boats, in caravans and wrote of these experiences in a series of books and pamphlets which he often illustrated and published himself under the imprints of Pirate Press and Amra (the name of his beloved lost boat). He was a close associate ...


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