Monday, August 3, 2015
Rachel Eliza Griffiths's dedications to women
I recently read Rachel Eliza Griffiths's newest volume Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015) and was moved in a positive way by her attention to a wide range of women in the book. The thoughtfulness and the vivid imagery of Griffiths's writing have really captured my attention over the last couple of weeks. Her poems are a testament to what it means to take women seriously in artistic representations.
Griffiths dedicates poems to poets Ai, Tracy K. Smith, Pascale Petit and to the artists Ana Mendiata, Francesca Woodman. The poet draws inspiration from the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and she also dedicates a poem to "my paternal great-grandmother, Lucille McKay, to the spirit of Lucille Clifton, Muriel Rukeyser, and to the women, past, present, and future who challenge and support me."
In those specific poems as well as throughout the volume, we get a feel for the inspiration of those and other women in Griffiths's life and writing. In some cases, the women offer poetic lines that Griffiths creatively absorbs and showcases. In other instances, the life, works, and legacy of Kahlo figure into Griffiths's poems such as in "July 13, 1954" (the date of the painter's death).
So yes, women appear as inspirational forces in Griffiths's poems. But she also prompts us to recall girls and women who were victims of ruthless violence. Her poem "Woman, New Delhi" is dedicated to Jyoti Singh Pandey, who was "brutally gang-raped and tortured," and to "the millions of women who continue to be sexually assaulted and killed in every continent."
Her poem "gun minor, or the inconsolable constellation" references Hadiya Pendleton, Anjelica Castillo, Deonta Howard, and Khalise Witherspoon, among others. "The bullets in America are not thoughtful," writes Griffiths in the opening of the poem. "They do not go missing." She goes on to allude to gun violence and other forms of terror enacted upon a range of people.
The specific dedications and recurring presence of women in the book constitute powerful sources of energy and inspiration throughout Lighting the Shadow.
• The Visual Artist as Poet: The Case of Rachel Eliza Griffiths
• Rachel Eliza Griffiths's surrealist moments
• A connection between Lighting the Shadow and Mule & Pear
• A Notebook on Rachel Eliza Griffiths