Poet brings multiple talents to UHV reading series
Feb. 9, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 8, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.
Poetry is a full-body experience for Rachel Eliza Griffiths, the latest American Book Review speaker at the University of Houston-Victoria Wednesday afternoon.
Her breathy voice lilted cadence-like and she swayed softly as she told the story of a man who nearly died during Hurricane Katrina.
"Tar flows over broken levies. Dead cattle bob along interstates. Highways unfurled into ribbons and graves," she read. "The president remained on vacation. The secretary of state shopped for shoes."
Griffiths' poems - lush and budding with dreamy imagery - tell stories of music, Greek mythology and James Brown explain-ing heaven has Cadillacs.
Each uses a unique system of vocal cadence and body movement.
"Music and rhythm are a huge part of how I make poems," she said.
But Griffiths' artistic passions are beyond language. The collegiate poetry teacher uses images and paint to fuel an introspective creativity.
"I think because I'm a poet but also a photographer and a painter, my eyes are a little bit more open to mood and intuition," she said. "They all kind of are in a room working at the same time. I rarely cut any part of them off or say that part of them can't talk because I'm working on this."
Griffiths has a fellowship with Cave Canem, a group of African-American poets and plans to work on a photography portrait series on the African-American poetic movement within the group.
"I'm really wanting to resume my work in progress which is fantastic because I get to see poets differently," she said.
Griffiths' book, "The Requited Distance," which takes on the Greek story of Icarus, was released this week.
"A lot of my poems deal with the living and the dead in the same space," she said, explaining the work. "Ultimately, too, it's about relationships between parents and children, fathers and sons."