What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry & Democracy
Poet and visual artist Rachel Eliza Griffiths will give a reading in response to her new photography exhibition, bruise bullet flower, currently on display in the gallery.
bruise bullet flower documents the strength, vulnerability, and beauty of black, brown, and mostly queer-identified individuals living under the daily threat of gun violence in the United States. The exhibition at Woodland Pattern is the national debut for Griffiths’ project.
A chapbook published by Woodland Pattern in celebration of bruise bullet flower will be available to event attendees free of cost. The chapbook features photographs from the exhibition and poetry from eleven authors of color: Reginald Dwayne Betts, Jericho Brown, Natalie Diaz, Ross Gay, Aracelis Girmay, Rickey Laurentiis, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Safiya Sinclair, Tracy K. Smith, R.A. Villanueva, and Phillip B. Williams.
Griffiths’ exhibition and reading is part of a series of March programs organized by the Poetry Coalition, a national alliance of more than twenty-five organizations, of which Woodland Pattern is a founding member. Every March, the Coalition chooses a theme of social importance to discuss within its communities. This year’s programming focus is “What Is It, Then, Between Us?: Poetry and Democracy.”
The question “What is it, then, between us?” is an excerpt from the poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” by Walt Whitman. Whitman is canonically recognized as a poet whose work forged a new kind of American poetry that both expresses democratic ideals and contains painful truths about our country’s origin. This year also marks the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth.
About the artist:
Poet and photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths is the author of four poetry collections: Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books, 2015); Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2011), selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus American Library Association; The Requited Distance (2011); and Miracle Arrhythmia (2010). Her literary and visual work has been widely published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and periodicals including Virginia Quarterly Review, The Atlantic, the Georgia Review, Callaloo, Poets & Writers, the New York Times, American Poetry Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and many others. In her capacity as visual artist, Griffiths curated American Stanzas: 2006–2016, an exhibit at Poets House in New York City featuring portraits, mixed media, and archival photographs of poets of the Cave Canem collective over the last decade. Widely known for her literary portraits, she is also the creator of Poets on Poetry (P.O.P.), an intimate series of interviews, which gathers nearly one hundred contemporary poets together in conversation to discuss poetry in relation to individual human experience and culture, and which is featured online at the Academy of American Poets’ website. Griffiths’ honors include fellowships from Cave Canem, the Millay Colony, the New York State Summer Writers Institute, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and Vermont Studio Center. Currently she resides in Brooklyn.
About the Poetry Coalition (from the Academy of American Poets):
The Poetry Coalition is a national alliance of more than 25 organizations dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. Members are nonprofit organizations with paid staff whose primary mission is to promote poets and poetry, and/or multi-genre literary organizations that serve poets of specific racial, ethnic, or gender identities, backgrounds, or communities. All members present poets at live events.
Each March, members present programming across the country on a theme of social importance, which has included poetry & migration, and poetry & the body. Programs range from publications to panels, readings, and other public events. Any and all organizations and groups are invited to program on the March theme. The Poetry Coalition is coordinated by the Academy of American Poets and is grateful to the Ford Foundation for its support of this work. For more information please visit the Poetry Coalition site and follow along on social media at #PoetryCoalition.