The summer that was, the garden that might have been
Where oleanders scrawled over the hill falling
from the ruined wasn’t a castle but could’ve been in spite
or idiot pictures splattered over the upstairs no-stair
walls and the boys didn’t do them, that’s for sure!…
An abandoned garden, the ruins once populated by human presence, and the idea of what could have been and instead was not: this is the bitter feeling that Gabriel Giffin’s poetry leaves with the reader.
It is difficult to remain indifferent to Gabriel’s descriptive and evocative The summer that was, the garden that might have been. In his verses, you can perceive the sultry heat of an Italian summer, the noisy background of cicadas and bees. You can physically imagine a garden that is anything but luxuriant, but which deeply inspired the author. The poet is fascinated by a desolate and decadent garden, its crumpled oleander petals on the ground, and its ruins. He associates this powerful natural imagery with a painful memory, the abrupt end of youth, broken by a sudden accident. The garden then becomes a metaphor for youth that could have been as vital as a garden of delights but has turned into a shady and perishable one. Reading it, you feel the cold envelop you in the torrid and light-hearted summer.
Gabriel’s poetry is a meditation on loss, but above all on the crumbling power of time that passing. The topos of transience that takes away youth, beauty, and life renders his texts into a sort of literary still life. Like a Flemish still life painting of perishing of fruit in a wicker basket, wrapped in shadow and obscurity, the poet tells of life and death through the image of nature, which regains its space and its right to decay. From a stylistic and formal point of view, Gabriel’s poetry reflects the content of his verses. He captures the urgency, the vitality, the exuberance of youth with a fast rhythm, and at the same time offering sudden ruptures, abrupt interruptions, as in the lives of those the poet describes.
The close poetic relationship with nature recalls Emily Dickinson and her backyard garden, in which insects and blooms, flowers and vegetables, were observed obsessively, embodying metaphors of life and memories. Similarly, Gabriel cites John Keats among his literary references; like the Keatsian Greek urn sanctioning the changing and doomed destiny of the human being and youth and the imperishable nature of beauty through art, themes also manifest in Gabriel’s works.
Gabriel Griffin is the only inhabitant of a small island in Lake Orta, Northern Italy, where he writes in peaceful isolation and organizes annual festivals and literature events. An award-winning poet and author, his work has been featured in several anthologies. His poetry speaks of colours stolen from a dream, and of a garden that will never be again.
Gabriel Griffin is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Gardens call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Gardens issue.