Kenyon Review Online, A Micro-Review of Lighting the Shadow / by Rachel Griffiths

"This fourth collection by Rachel Eliza Griffiths transforms what the eye sees; as a gifted photographer as well as poet, this poet is definitely up to the task. The majority of these poems display emotionally subjective meaning: the speaker nimbly drops into moments of import and rapidly gifts image after image, with the splendid attentiveness of her language bringing the reader close. Other poems do reveal their interiority to the reader, using a mixture of lyric and narrative in language that bends the knowable, such as “The Woman and the Branch”: “Carrying the glass / inside my skin to school, I was young. / Show us what you have, the world said.” The theme of womanhood appears immediately, with four poems in the first section using some variation of “woman” in the title, and one discovers that womanhood is essential to nearly all the poems. Griffiths builds thematic layers to create intersectionality, for history is a crossroads for women—the history of just-passed moments and ancestral history, too. Another theme is violence, but rather than relying upon terrifying physical spectacle, Griffiths translates trauma into beauty, and, in turn, presents political transgression. As one reaches the end of the book, Griffiths continues to braid political images through her lyrics, threads that tug the reader through mentions of various forms of abuse: police brutality, violence towards women, and various instances of inhumanity. But throughout this book, glimpses of joy: “Sometimes prayer.” Last words: Though themes reoccur, what is most striking about this collection is Griffiths’s amazing innovation. She revisits themes, yet her familiarity is never stale—she never writes the same poem. Instead, in the words of the ancestors, she “troubles” the moment."

-Honorée Fanonne Jeffers