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Shamir Griffin
Author, Translator
The Living Wound

Adult; Poetry; (Market)

The Living Wound is a collection of free verse poetry and prose from the 2014 Central Valley Favorite Author recipient Shamir Griffin. The poems paint vivid images of battling rape trauma, finding love, bereavement, and affirmation while keeping strong connections to Griffin's roots. Many of the poems draw on Griffin's Black and Native American ancestry, as well as his experience being a gay male within these two cultural spheres.
In this intimate, sometimes searing collection, Griffin threads the personal, political, and universal while digging into his own experiences as a gay man of Black and Native American ancestry. Emphasizing a theme of resilience—he writes “I was 14 when he kicked me out, /For honesty and open in coming out”—and striving to “bridge vast cultural disparity,” Griffin’s frank, sometimes blunt verses expose wounds, denounce prejudice, and find hope in the work of building community. “He reached out to the new world,/ One he helped create unable to find a place,” he writes in “A Boy,” a poem whose poignant central figure, cast out and eventually “drained” even of tears, proves “Unable to save himself, only others.”

The portrait that emerges over these clear, inviting poems is of a man dedicated to creating a better world than the one he had to endure. Griffin draws powerful connections between everyday life and the brutality of history in poems like “Cooking,” in which the “fine perfection” and “rich flavor” of food that draws on family legacy is the root of deeper truths: “From enslaved African to Choctaw ancestry, / Soul food has danced alongside genealogy,” he writes, noting that “Flames of hate boiled the roux of miscegenation.” “Cooking” concludes, though, in a celebration of ancestry, of the sense of handed-down recipes guiding him now, and of how act of preparing and sharing food links past and present.

The nourishment of connection also proves a recurring theme, often suggesting a balm for cruelty and prejudice. (The “wound” of the title is living, after all.) “Poetic Love” imagines “a garden that nourishes two as one,” just as “A Hug” contemplates a moment of “brief, beautiful, and fleeting” connection from a stranger. “So please just hold me as I am, a second longer,” Griffin writes, in a late poem that could serve as a capstone for this accessible, emotionally direct collection that should resonate with any reader of personal yet highly relatable free verse.

Takeaway: Accessible, emotionally direct poems centered on the urgent power of human connection.

Great for fans of: Rickey Laurentiis, Danez Smith.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A