Poet, former Chilean activist releases new book

Oct 21, 2013

Poet Mariela Griffor

Poet Mariela Griffor grew up in Chile where she became a political activist against the military dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and 80s. Now Griffor lives with her family near Detroit where she serves as the Michigan Consul to Chile.

WMUK’s Zinta Aistars spoke with her about her new book of poems called The Psychiatrist which comes out Wednesday. Griffor says she was involved in politics from a very young age and it really shaped her life.

“Those 17 years of military dictatorship really shaped the consciousness of Chile and it was very tough, it was very difficult," she says. "A lot of people decided not to do as much. But then I would say a lot of people with a political consciousness decided to be more active and I was one of them. I became very active politically.”

Griffor says everything activists did caused a lot of repercussions later in life. During the turmoil in Chile, Griffor’s fiancée was assassinated. Griffor, expecting their child, was exiled to Sweden. Many of the poems in The Psychiatrist deal with her experiences in a Swedish refugee camp and reflections on her past in Chile.

Unlike some bilingual poets, Griffor says she actually enjoys writing in English--her second language.

“English is a marvelous area where I can express myself without the pressure of a style or pressure of my own limitations like I have in Spanish," she says. "It is a special, vast, and big language with some reach that allows me to be free. And that’s why I feel that it’s unbelievable the power that that can give me.”

Griffor says the Spanish language can also bring back harsh memories.

“I have all of this baggage of region and culture and custom and habit and grammar and syntaxes," she says. "You know, I have a whole baggage I don’t have in English.”

In a previous interview, Griffor said The Psychiatrist is about the shifting ground of modern society across cultures and nations.

"How the borders are moving. If you take Europe, for example.   A couple years ago you didn't have this freedom that you have now of moving from one country to another. There is one passport for those tremendous amount of countries in one continent--the European Union passport. So different countries are dislocating the people from one region to another region inside or within their own country. So everything is moving, not only the in the internet--cause we all know everything is moving so fast in the internet. But everything is moving very fast outside too, in the real world. So we don't know how those changes will affect us."

Mariela Griffor’s book of poetry called The Psychiatrist comes out Wednesday.