Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a visual artist, poet, and novelist. She is widely known for her literary portraits, fine art photography, and lyric videos. She is the creator of P.O.P (Poets on Poetry), an intimate series of short interviews that gathers nearly 100 contemporary poets in conversation. Her most recent collection of poetry and photography, Seeing the Body, was published in June 2020. Her debut novel, Promise, is forthcoming. She currently lives in New York City.
From Rachel Eliza:
Spend time reading Ross Gay’s radiant poem “Sorrow Is Not My Name.”
Notice how Gay examines and gathers together ordinary figures and objects in his life and elevates them into a space that is transformative, celebratory, and startling. The poem possesses a clear, direct voice.
Gay’s poem is dedicated to the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Brooks’ extraordinary poem “To the Young Who Want To Die” closes with a couplet that implores and encourages young people to resist despair. Brooks writes, “Graves grow no green that you can use. Remember, green’s your color. You’re Spring.” Gay’s poem replies to Brooks with this affirmation, “I remember. Green’s my color. I’m Spring.” In this acknowledgment, Gay and Brooks are braided together into one radiant voice of hope.
Use Gay’s title but make it yours by replacing the word “Sorrow” with another emotion that you feel strongly present in your own life (i.e. “___________” Is Not My Name).
Next, make a list of ordinary people, places, objects, and settings that you experience on a daily basis. Then write your own “response” to Ross Gay’s call for you to “remember.”
If you can, try to use the phrases “I remember” or “My Name Is ________” (insert emotion or specific language here). And if you find yourself wandering around in the world of your own name, keep going and write to tell us how that feels!
Write in a voice that reveals who you are and what you care about. As you write, celebrate your defiance, your courage, your fears, your vulnerabilities, your love and delight in what you have chosen to love in your life. Be sure to consider texture, colors, the natural world, sensory/descriptive language, slang, and rhythms. Elevate your voice in a way that we really hear your voice and hear how you lift up the things that matter most to you.
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