Authors: Susan Griffin

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American poet and philosopher

Identity: Gay or bisexual

Author Works

Nonfiction:

Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her, 1978

Rape: The Power of Consciousness, 1979

Pornography and Silence: Culture’s Revenge Against Nature, 1981

Made from This Earth: An Anthology of Writings, 1982

“Split Culture,” 1987

“Curves Along the Road,” 1990

A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, 1992

The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender, and Society, 1996

What Her Body Thought: A Journey into the Shadows, 1999

The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalog of Their Virtues, 2001

Drama:

Voices, pb. 1974

Thicket, pr. 1992

Poetry:

Dear Sky, 1971

Like the Iris of an Eye, 1976 (includes Dear Sky)

Unremembered Country, 1987

Bending Home: Selected and New Poems, 1967-1998, 1998

Nonfiction:

Henry James Goes to the Movies, 2001

Biography

It is unlikely that Susan Griffin would have developed into the feminist poet, philosopher, and social critic she is had she not come of age during the peace and justice movement of the 1960’s. While studying at universities in Berkeley and San Francisco (she received her B.A. in 1965 and her M.A. in 1973, both from San Francisco State University), Griffin joined many others of her generation in demonstrations against the Vietnam War and for civil rights. She witnessed the rise of the Black Power movement and was influenced by its analysis of oppression and racism.{$I[AN]9810001951}{$I[A]Griffin, Susan}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Griffin, Susan}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Griffin, Susan}{$I[geo]GAY OR BISEXUAL;Griffin, Susan}{$I[tim]1943;Griffin, Susan}

These factors contributed to Griffin’s becoming a feminist, a transformation she maintains was completed in 1967, one year after marrying John Levy and one year before giving birth to her daughter, Rebecca. At this time, the style and content of Griffin’s writing became very personal. As a result of the new insight she gained into certain aspects of her life, she came to the conclusion that she had married in an attempt to accommodate the traditional idea of womanhood and to protect herself from society’s condemnation of single women and, more important in her case, of lesbians. In 1970 Griffin and her husband divorced, and she began a new life as a writer and a single parent.

Griffin regards herself above all else as a poet, and indeed, the first recognition she received for her writing was the 1963 Ina Coolbrith Prize in Poetry. Her first volume of poems, Dear Sky, was published in 1971 by Shameless Hussy Press, one of the earliest feminist presses. The contents of this volume were reprinted in the larger collection Like the Iris of an Eye, which includes poems written between 1967 and 1976. During these same years, Griffin also demonstrated her talents as a dramatist. Her play Voices, originally written for public radio, received an Emmy Award for its 1975 television production and was subsequently staged throughout the United States and Europe.

Several more years passed before Griffin began writing in what was to become her best-known genre: feminist philosophy in poetic prose. In Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her, Griffin approaches traditional philosophical and scientific ideas from the standpoint of a feminist poet. Recognizing that patriarchy identifies women with nature and culture with men, she writes the work in two voices, which she describes in Made from This Earth as: “one the chorus of women and nature, an emotional, animal, embodied voice, and the other a solo part, cool, professorial, pretending to objectivity, carrying the weight of cultural authority.”

In Woman and Nature Griffin suggests that men dominate women out of a desire to control nature, which they correctly perceive as the cause of much suffering and death. What Griffin considers unfortunate is not the association of women with nature (though this has negative as well as positive manifestations in human society) but men’s attempt to disassociate themselves from nature. Griffin maintains that all human beings are natural beings and that the attempt to deny this results in some oppressing others.

The idea that people project onto others what they fear most in themselves lies at the heart of Griffin’s critique of racism and pornography. In Made from This Earth Griffin reveals that what led her to write the book Pornography and Silence: Culture’s Revenge Against Nature was her belief that the mind of the pornographer resembles the mind of the racist: Both “choose a scapegoat on which to project a part of themselves they deny. Both take revenge against this scapegoat through humiliation and acts of dominance.”

Griffin’s critique of the ways in which human beings attempt to separate themselves from nature made her one of the leading representatives of the ecofeminism movement that arose in the late 1980’s. This movement encompasses a broad range of perspectives, but it has as its common denominator an awareness of the connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature. In her writings and activities Griffin promotes an appreciation of the interconnectedness and intrinsic value of all life forms while criticizing the kind of patriarchal culture that fosters dualistic thinking and an uncaring, unbridled technology.

In A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War Griffin focuses on the destructive aspects of Western culture by tracing the evolution of weaponry from the Trojan War through World War II. In the process she reveals the way in which the human tendency to deny unpleasant facts links past with present and public with private. Like her earlier works, A Chorus of Stones is written in poetic prose. In this work Griffin argues that the development of nuclear weapons is inseparable from human assumptions about gender, and she challenges her readers to make their voices heard.

Griffin continued to write intelligent, deeply felt studies on the profound issues of society. She also continued to write poetry. With the uplifting and vital Bending Home, she celebrates feminism in its many complex guises, embracing beauty, death, science, faith, and motherhood.

BibliographyGriffin, Susan. “Recasting Courtesan Life.” Interview by Jim Mitulski. Lambda Book Report 10, no. 6 (January, 2002): 8-10. Conducted after the publication of The Book of the Courtesans, Griffin discusses her writing style. Includes some biographical background.Perry, Linda A. M., Lynn H. Turner, and Helen M. Sterk, eds. Constructing and Reconstructing Gender. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. Includes an essay by Diane P. Freedman that compares Griffin’s work with that of Gloria Anzaldúa.Stabile, Carol. Feminism and the Technological Fix. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Criticizes Griffin and other ecofeminists for being technophobic.Walljasper, Jay. “Rethinking the Left.” Social Policy 26, no. 3 (Spring, 1996): 20. Walljasper interviews eight prominent social thinkers, Griffin among them, to reveal the current state of liberal philosophy. Griffin claims that many current problems arise because policy makers operate on theory instead of on real-life experience.Yalom, Marilyn, ed. Women Writers of the West Coast: Speaking of Their Lives and Careers. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Capra Press, 1983. A chapter reports on a public dialogue between Griffin and Nannerl Keohane.
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