Seeing the Body: Poems (Paperback)
Nominee for the 2021 NAACP Image Award in Poetry
An elegiac and moving meditation on the ways in which we witness "bodies" of grief and healing.
Poems and photographs collide in this intimate collection, challenging the invisible, indefinable ways mourning takes up residence in a body, both before and after life-altering loss.
In radiant poems—set against the evocative and desperate backdrop of contemporary events, pop culture, and politics—Rachel Eliza Griffiths reckons with her mother’s death, aging, authority, art, black womanhood, memory, and the American imagination. The poems take shape in the space where public and private mourning converge, finding there magic and music alongside brutality and trauma. Griffiths braids a moving narrative of identity and its possibilities for rebirth through image and through loss.
A photographer as well as a poet, Griffiths accompanies the fierce rhythm of her verses with a series of ghostly, imaginative self-portraits, blurring the body’s internal wilderness with landscapes alive with beauty and terror. The collision of text and imagery offers an associative autobiography, in which narratives of language, absence, and presence are at once saved, revised, and often erased. Seeing the Body dismantles personal and public masks of silence and self-destruction to visualize and celebrate the imperfect freedom of radical self-love.
About the Author
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is the author of four previous collections of poetry, including Lighting the Shadow. Her literary and visual work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Paris Review, and many other publications. She lives in New York City.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ mother died around the same time as mine. As we both mourned, she sent me incandescent words to comfort me, phrases that read like invocations and felt like salves and balms. Her work has always wowed me with its beauty, depth, and luminosity, and there it was also healing me. Radiantly elegiac, this hybrid work of poetry and photographs is one we all need for living, loving, and letting go.
— Edwidge Danticat, author of Everything Inside
These poems are a gift—they remind me that grief can be the ground for transformation. In the midst of Griffiths’ loss, a series of metamorphoses occur—like a fairy tale or a myth, the poet transforms into a spider, then a snake, then a hawk, then prey. Then, like a myth, by the end Griffiths’ has found her true self—all along we have been in the midst of a song of praise.
— Nick Flynn, author of This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire
In this tender, harrowing volume, Rachel Eliza Griffiths voices the staggering desolation of daughters who must face that inevitable hollow—the loss of the mother. And although that hollow is the driving force of this collection, it is by no means the whole of it—elegy, unreeled in tender yet fiery vignettes, is paired with haunting and starkly revealing images that amplify the lyric as the poet contemplates the world beyond absence.
— Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art