Eliza Griswold is a poet and reporter whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and the New Republic. Griswold's poems frequently draw on her diverse journalistics assignments, particularly regions in Africa and the Middle East. In her notebook-style essay ‘Everyone Is an Immigrant,’ Griswold explains the productive relationship between her work as a journalist and as a poet: “I write better poems on the move and in odd landscapes. Being in unusual places allows me to feel that I have both an authority to speak and something to say. I can imagine myself as having a frank, fierce encounter with what’s real, even if this has nothing to do with the external world. It is easier to believe the poems are necessary.”
A wedge of steel flung skyward
and beyond it the prairie flatlines.
Each unhappy family permits itself
another slice of pie. The sky turns
constantly trying to get it right.
To the east, the slum eats itself:
a man in satin fields calls
and walks the children's block.
To the west, the west begins.
(from ‘Modern City’)
Griswold’s poems often grapple with lingering experiences or memories unresolved by reportage. In a Q&A with Poetry magazine in December 2012, Griswold recalls poets that have served as influences in bridging the gap between trauma and creative work: “I find both James Fenton and Ryszard Kapuściński helpful in writing poems about observed horror. Both contain a kind of fury that I recognize, but that fury is useless if it comes off as scolding or moralistic.”
“We talk about survivor’s guilt, but not about observer‘s guilt,” notes Griswold, “for journalists this is particularly acute, as we are paid to watch suffering and paid more during war. For poets, it’s even worse. It’s Adorno for the twenty-first century. The incomparable horror of Auschwitz has given way to Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq.”
Griswold’s books include the poetry collection Wideawake Field (2007) and the non-fiction title The Tenth Parallel (2010), which examines Christianity and Islam in Asia and Africa. In 2010, Griswold won the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome for her poetry, and in 2011, The Tenth Parallel received the Anthony J. Lukas award. A former Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard, Griswold is currently a senior fellow at the New American Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute.
The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (non-fiction), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, NY, 2010
Wideawake Field (poems), Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, NY, 2007
Guernica: Postcards from Karachi: Eliza Griswold reports from Pakistan on the killing of Osama bin Laden (video)
New York TImes Magazine: Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry by Eliza Griswold
Poetry magazine: Everyone Is an Immigrant by Eliza Griswold
Poetry magazine: Q&A: Eliza Griswold
Poetry magazine podcast: Dumb Pig Fate: Poems by Michael Ryan, Louise Glück, Eliza Griswold, and Michelle Boisseau (audio)
Poetry magazine podcast: Healing By Mistake: Poems from Richard Kenney, Eliza Griswold, Lucie Brock-Broido, Atsuro Riley, and Mary Karr (audio)