A Paschal chick on a daffodil cake

It seems like Maz died years and years ago. It was in fact almost two years ago. For those who don’t know the story here’s an article from The Times, explaining the background. I’ll reproduce it here in full because The Times is now behind a paywall, and Mr Murdoch & Co don’t deserve any respect at all…

Admirers rescue internet poet from virtual oblivion after death

Simon de Bruxelles
February 11 2011 12:01AM

In the world of internet poetry Margaret Ann Griffiths was a legend, despite never having had a word published in print. Now, after her death, an anthology of the reclusive poet’s work has gone on sale after a small band of admirers from across the world spent months tracking down poems that were in danger of being lost for ever.

Griffiths spent her later years in Poole, Dorset, surrounded by a menagerie of birds and stick insects, writing poetry under the name Grasshopper and contributing to discussion forums.

She appears to have shunned human companionship and instead found her release through the internet, publishing on small poetry forums and advising others on their work.

It was only after her death at 62 that her growing band of fans realised her poems were disappearing fast. Roger Collett, the owner of Arrowhead Press, who had tried in vain to persuade her to have her poetry published while she was alive, teamed up with 16 other admirers to rescue her works.

“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “Since 2001 she had posted on a large number of discussion forums, many of which no longer exist because of the ephemeral nature of the internet.

“We managed to find more than 300 but there are other poems that appear to have gone for ever.”

Griffiths, who also posted under the name Maz, had worked as a doctor’s receptionist but gave it up to care for her ailing parents, now dead. She appears to have had few close friends.

“Initially we couldn’t find her next of kin, but we managed to get permission to publish through the family solicitor and passed copies of the book to them,” said Mr Collett. He said he had chatted with Griffiths only by e-mail. “She was a bit of a recluse. I had an awful lot of difficulty finding anyone who had met her face to face, in fact I never did.

“She was an incredibly talented woman and it would be a shame if her work was lost. We wanted to make sure it survived in a solid form. ”

Since the anthology of 316 poems, entitled Grasshopper, was published last month, orders have come in from Australia, Canada, the US, the Philippines and Israel.

David Anthony, 62, the retired chief executive of Hitachi Capital and an enthusiast of Griffiths’ work, said that her admirers could not let “the first serious talent of the internet poetry age” go unrecorded.

“There was such a contrast between her outgoing internet personality and her reclusive attitude in the real world,” he said. “She had a lot of friends on the internet, and huge admiration and respect for the quality of work she produced, and the quality of help and advice she gave to other writers.”

After her death, the American poet Timothy Murphy wrote: “It is a shame that she never took the TLS, PN Review and Faber by storm. But that wouldn’t have been her style. Instead she frequented little ’zines and won our hearts pseudonymously. She was a masterful poet, and she is deeply missed.”

The Alchemist’s Omelette

If he traces three more arcs, he will make a cat
not a common striped creature like Arnolfini’s
ginger tom — but an incandescent beast
with onyx eyes. Nim pauses, his horn-nib suspended
over the page, then inscribes two arcs
at the proper declension. The third curve tries
to draw itself. He hears the thin hiss as it sucks
at the Chinese ink, and then it crouches,
frustrated and invisible, a long quiver
in the air waiting for a weight of colour.
Around Nim, flickers prowl and growl
in unfinished flourishes, designs and devices
all requiring just one more touch suddenly
to be, to leap from some tangled dimension
into the simple now. If he closes his eyes
he can see scattered points of light.
They burrow beneath his lids and prickle
against the skin of his sight. He knows
eyes peel like onions, burst like ripe grapes.
Space, busy with nearly-but-not-quite,
presses around him with an undercurrent
of insect vibration. The sound grows louder,
breaks, concentrates into a small beat, tac
tac, the eggtooth of an unhatched chick
trying to crack its shell. The egg, that symbol
of perfection, which hangs above Piero’s Madonna.
He curls his fingers around the smooth, cool concept
and smells incense. Once you are, he whispers,
you will die. Time has stronger magic than mine.
Without the last stroke, you have Forever.
The unpersuaded air tensions between chair and chair,
chair and table, like cittern strings. His mouth becomes
the hole in a sound-box, rounded by surprise
as four claws rip through incompletion like knives
through a curtain. A woman, with long chestnut hair
and skin as blue as gentian bells, is the first.
She leads a great lynx on a golden cord.


The Omelette poem shown in The Times article is a good piece of work, but it is perhaps way too intellectual and dry and ‘poesy’. The following is one of my favourite Maz poems. At first glance it might seem cliche, a love poem; but that’s the point: it seems totally unreined, yet the language, the flow, the structure and of course the passion is all within the boundries of ‘a poem’. Maz was that rare breed of poet who wrote both formal and free verse poetry. The piece shown below has an unbounded joy of words and rhythm and is brimming with confidence. A poet at the peak of their work. Compare it with the omelette poem and see what you think…

Drips from Psyche’s Lamp

Tell me you’re blind at night and I’ll believe you.
Tell me they raise the sky on ten thousand turquoise poles
and I won’t quibble. I’ll point out the flapping canopy,
and the places in the T-shirt clouds where their points stand out
like nipples. I don’t care about lies, about tall tales,
only about the tourniquet musk of you, the bowstring tight
around my aorta so my brain pulses harder than my heart,
all thoughts turned to sparkles.

Wind me in your elastic time
so I’ll live forever before breakfast, so I’ll fall apart
and curl in a yolk, then break out all gold and new
like a Paschal chick on a daffodil cake. Launch me
on a crocus sea. I don’t care if you’re blind at night,
if the sky collapses on me like a marquee in a squall.
I’ll be ova, ovine, big sheep’s eyes,
I’ll be nova, novacodeine, noddy as a noodle,
I’ll be tangy, tangerine, mango, mandarin,
tango, tanga, bingo bongo bang.

A Paschal chick on a daffodil cake, indeed. That’s the Maz I knew and loved.

Grasshopper – the poetry of Margaret Griffiths.

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