Rachel Eliza Griffiths on Feeling Something at the End of a Book
In Conversation with Mitzi Rapkin on the First Draft Podcast
First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.
In this episode, Mitzi talks to Rachel Eliza Griffiths about her new novel, Promise.
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From the episode:
Mitzi Rapkin: This is a book that made me feel. Sometimes you close a book, and it makes you think, which I’m not saying it didn’t make me think because it absolutely did, but what I’m left with is how I feel. And I’m curious about your reaction to that.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths: I feel the ideal book for me is an experience where you come away with both of those parts, you know, that you’re thinking, but you’re definitely feeling, there’s a visceral kind of intimacy with the work. So I remember this moment where I was out in Santa Fe and Joy Harjo was there giving a conversation about writing, and she spoke about the heart and the mind, and she said this remarkable thing about how kind of the artists goes into a room and allows the heart to kind of fling pains and rage and feelings and things on the wall and just completely wreck and shatter the room. And then the job of the mind is to come in afterwards and encapsulate that in language. So, I feel like for me with Promise, I never wanted the mind and heart to be separated from each other. I love smart, funny books, where it’s witty, and it’s fun, but I feel like the books that you reach for, to kind of save you, the feeling part can’t be disentangled from that. I think we have so much pressure to be smart all the time for everybody, and we get uncomfortable when we say the word heart; like this book made me feel something. It sounds so sentimental, you know, and people never ever, particularly writers, want the “s” word near their work and I don’t want that either, but it’s okay to feel something after coming through a book.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet, visual artist, and novelist. She is a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for a NAACP Image Award. Griffiths is also a recipient of fellowships including Cave Canem, Kimbilio, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and Yaddo. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Tin House. Her novel is Promise.