Product Description

poems by

Jay Griswold

Poetry book, 60 pages, $12 cover price

($10 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-93090-793-5

Released: 2005

Winner of the 2005 MSR Poetry Book Award

About The Author

Jay Griswold was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and has traveled extensively throughout the world. He has a Masters Degreee in Creative Writing from Colorado State University and currently resides in Ft. Myers, Florida. His previous books are Meditations for the Year of the Horse (Leaping Mountain Press) and The Landscape of Exile (West End Press, 1993).


Jay Griswold’s Conquistador is one of the most dynamic and self-assured collections of poetry I have read in several years. The main character’s central voice is reminiscent of Ed Dorn’s “Gunslinger,” but more bloodthirsty and contemporary in tone. He is a true son of Lorca, who understands the black sounds that emanate from an unwavering humanity. These are the deeper songs of the gypsy outlaw, in the tradition of Villon and Genet, whose only salvation is to tell his tale, and tell it straight.The surreal blue notes that inform this journey are pressed between singing knives and the bark of gunplay. Surrrealism is not for the faint-hearted, it requires the courage to experiment, to dig beneath the surface of the world for the unexpected associations that bind us invisibly together. It will be very interesting to see what this remarkable poet does for an encore.

Keith Flynn

Final Judge and Editor of the Asheville Poetry Review



I don’t like to bore myself
That is why I quit writing poetry
Does any of this remind you of poetry
If so I’ve failed
Because these aren’t poem
They’re heads that rolled from scaffolds
In the Middle Ages
Dark equestrians on the road at nightfall
Paintings it takes a scream to finish
Hand grenades that follow officers into latrines
They are scorpions
On the light switches
Of cheap hotels in the tropics
When you encounter one
Anything can happen.


My father served the seven-headed beast of capitalism
Each morning he took the train into Grand Central Station
You could hear the beast’s roaring from Wall Street
You could hear the heavy machines that grind down lives
My father served the seven-headed beast
He brought it new fodder from south of the border
He exploited the Inuit and the Athabasca
He drilled for oil on government land
And got the taxpayers to foot the bill
My father served the seven-headed beast
You could hear it snorting and howling in the newspapers
Sometimes it caught fire when it devoured coal
Sometimes it devoured whole families together
The seven-headed beast was my father’s god
It was also my nemesis
And so I wore rope sandals and scorned meat
I refused to cross picket lines or enter factories
I carried the gospel of Marx close to my heart
Whatever I had I gave away
Because that makes it easier to walk on
I wrote verses by firelight on the beaches
Of the new republics
Refused to drive nails into the foundations
Of a rich man’s house
I burned my father’s flag in effigy
Committed seditious acts in the forest
Communed with anyone who had an acre of land
And knew it was a rather large grave for a peasant
But my father served the seven-headed beast
Each day he put on his uniform of ashes
And headed for Wall Street where you could hear
The torment of the working poor
While I went about the work of unraveling his tapestry
I was sure the seven-headed beast would discover me
Soon enough and come to crush me like a fly
But I was always ready for the son of a bitch
This is why I painted Remember Ludlow
On the offices of CF&I
Searched out goons and led them up into the hills
And the seven-headed beast was always there
It was like Rockefeller preaching one of his sermons
It was the trickle-down effect that takes
A century of blood and turns it into powder

And so at last we came face to face
And each head was uglier than the one before
The first one was called Breckenridge
The second Vail and the third Aspen
The fourth was Telluride and so on
Of course I couldn’t beat the damn thing
Not even with the thick pine bough I’d used
To assassinate Mormons

And so I threw handfuls of rice
At the weddings of friends who would separate
In a few years
I wrote books on the dynamics
Of certain flora and fauna that only exist
Above timberline
I told the story of the ptarmigan that changes its color
I wrote a poem about a rock
Until the words and the rock were one
And I chased the seven-headed beast with a sling
But every time I got close I missed
And my father retired a wealthy man
He still praises the seven-headed beast
That spews its black substance over the landscape
And whose roaring can be heard all the way from Wall Street.


Somewhere between Campeche and Villahermosa
I found myself completely surrounded by a poem
And because I didn’t have a pistol I grabbed up
A dead shark and began swinging it around
It was a frightfully big shark and only slightly decayed
Some kids on spring break were carrying it
Back to the US on the roof of their car
And I suppose the smell got to them
It really was a frightfully big shark
But I was glad to have it anyway
As I said I was surrounded
By this very ugly poem
That contained seven redheaded dwarves
And enough adornment for a Paris brothel
And so I was swinging this shark the way
Jimmy Page swings a guitar
I know the poem wanted to drag me back
To its lair in the Sierras
And so I fought it with the dead shark
Fought it for seven hours under the blazing sun
And the shark wasn’t getting any younger
It was beginning to smell really wild
And the poem kept breaking down into facets
It knew more languages than Ezra Pound
It was like seven wolves with yellow fangs
Like seven old shoes standing empty on a street corner
And the shark began spewing out beer cans



Everything a generation leaves behind
There on the road between Campeche and Villahermosa.

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