“Your alphabet wraps itself
like a tourniquet
around my tongue.
Speak now, the static says.
A half-dressed woman named Truth
tells me she is a radio.”
–from “Dear America” at Four Way Review.
Who She Is
Rachel Eliza Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts). She lives in Brooklyn, New York. In 2011, Griffiths appeared in the first-ever poetry issue in Oprah’s O Magazine.
Griffiths is also a photographer and visual artist and the creator of the not-to-be-missed P.O.P. Poets on Poetry, “an intimate series of interviews, which gathers more than fifty contemporary poets together in conversation to discuss poetry in relation to individual human experience and culture.”
Why You Should Read Her
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is using every medium (photography, video, spoken word, written word) to make language work. To rearrange it. To remind us through poetry that language is not static; it breathes and lives beauty, pain, the world. It’s not the stiff, coded litany we were too often taught that poetry is. As if poetry is something owned. If it is, then Griffiths is teaching us how to re-own it.
Griffiths is shaking language down, bending it like a sculptor, taking it apart and making something new. New myths, new truths our bodies always knew anyway. She is making new myths that include all of us, making whole what has been blown to pieces and arranged into either/ors and binaries. She’s mining dreams and secrets to shape the thing we call politics into new forms. Maybe she’s making poems into bridges, or maybe a new kind of tool. Poetry we can use to remake the world. All we could ever ask or hope for.
Where to read her work
Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015).
Mule and Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose), selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus American Library Association.
Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books).
The Requited Distance (Sheep Meadow Press).
“Discrepancies Regarding My Mother’s Departure” at Guernica.
“THE TWO ELIZAS, 2009 (after ‘Two Fridas’, 1939)” at Ars Poetica.
“The Human Zoo” at The The.
Two Poems: “Dear America” and “Another Woman’s Coat, for J.H.” at Four Way Review.
“Shareef & Stella, Snowlit” at Muzzle.
“DECEMBER, NEW DELHI & Poem” at Narrative Northeast.
“P.O.P. Poets on Poetry” an extensive video project of Griffiths, featuring interviews with poets Camille Rankine, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Nick Flynn, R.A. Villanueva, Tina Chang, Marilyn Nelson, and many more.
“THE RUMPUS INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL ELIZA GRIFFITHS.” Interviewed by Roxane Gay at The Rumpus.
“Rachel Eliza Griffiths interview, with John Hoppenthaler” at Connotation Press.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths reads at the 2012 Sarah Lawrence Poetry Festival pt. 1.
#blackpoetsspeakout Rachel Eliza Griffiths reads “Incident” by Amiri Baraka.
“Fashion Extremes: Celebrate Your Unique Style: Modeling the latest looks, eight rising poets express their dynamic personal styles—and show you how to cultivate your own.” Yes, you read that right. Rachel Eliza Griffiths modeling for Oprah.com.