Book Review: Lighting the Shadow by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Book Review of Lighting the Shadow
Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Four Way Books
Review by Katie Strubel
Lighting the Shadow by Rachel Eliza Griffiths is an emotional, honest, and intimate look into the aftermath of loss, grief, and the ways they can completely envelop our lives in one form or another. Griffiths wears her wounds with unwavering acceptance, and in this collection, those wounds take the shape of little moments loss leaves behind. In fact, the aftermath of loss and steps towards healing appear multiple times in this collection, first introduced in the opening poem, "The Dead Will Lead You:"
Mercy is the pulse of lupin
in a yellow field. My mother's
eyes are forgotten vases of irises.
Lighting the shadow, a woman
crawls out beneath her own war.
Moments like this underscore a key source of vulnerability in the collection's work. The poems are interested in showcasing the balance between the internal and external battle loss and grief have on the mind, how the concept of healing is not a one-way street of permanence, not congruent with the continuous waves of unexpected mourning. In "Elegy," the speaker seems to grieve the person she used to be when noticing the difference of how she used to view the world compared to now. Using the visuals of changing landscapes, she attempts to memorialize the ways these places accepted and contributed to her growth. The poem turns introspective, reflecting on what ways she abandoned parts of herself that were once so cared for:
My secrets have chapped lips. Once I gave them honey,
blood, & language. I never inquired of their subtle pain.
Why should I want their torment? Why do I believe in fools?
Griffiths' poetry acknowledges the unavoidable pain of life. The poems in Lighting the Shadow move through the shadows of loss, giving off their own light. Without sacrificing a poignant eye for imagery and emotion, they commemorate the grittiness of hurt and its contribution to human emotion and evolution. Griffiths writes, "brightness in the dark // please believe something," and reminds us to breathe through the mess of life.