Samantha Maw reviews Exposed by Michael A Griffith

Exposed: Michael A Griffith (2018)

ISBN 1724075535, 9781724075536

Exposed is Michael A. Griffith’s first poetry collection, self-published in 2018. Griffith is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet whose works have appeared in many international journals and anthologies. He is a member of the U.S. 1 Poet’s Cooperative, and he teaches at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, NJ.[1]

Exposed contains 19 poems highlighting our fragility as human beings and raises questions about our purpose and ultimate value. Downfall, a poem about a bullfight, is a poignant reflection on fate. Should we accept what is expected of us and live up to it, or surprise people by challenging those expectations and forging a different path for ourselves?

The title poem Exposed explores what defines us; is it our physical body?

Metal on bone

Knots in flesh

Hold me together

Define what I am now[2]

Is it our role in society? Are we only `valid in the care of others`? There is a strong sense throughout the poems that regardless of our value and purpose, time will always move on and we are ultimately helpless in our immortality; `Age and Infirmity strike as one`. We are impermanent; we are vulnerable. We break and sometimes we need others to stitch us back together.

I sense your decline, as you pedal to nowhere,

Starting to nod-off as you do.

Neither of us want to admit time’s betrayal.[3]

This collection seems to be about one man’s search for meaning; the pain of facing the truth; the feeling of being lost and needing rescue; the fear of forgetting who you are when faced with the decline of your physicality. There is the smack of resentment in his words; life and time have cheated him.  He questions his trust in those whose job it is to heal him,

Will this new drug betray any of the eight others I

Noe swallow?

The two I inject?

The foods I injest?

The body and blood of

Doctor:

How well do you heal me?

Heal thyself (as you would heal those who trespass

against you).[4]

I think the poem with the most potent imagery is Haunt. It has a gothic, vibrant feel to it.

There are ghosts in this place I now haunt.

Medusa and her snakes live here, too,

As does at least one Sasquatch.

I’ve seen skeletons with Saran Wrap wrinkled skin

And aliens who need tanks with tubes to breathe.

Finally, the two poems that lighten the general mood (a little) are The Courtyard and Smudge.

The Courtyard talks of a nursing home resident, Betty, who takes pleasure in the small things in life that are at her disposal. Namely, the hospital garden.

Betty marvels at this place of

small, mulched gardens, mowed grass,

a gray path between buildings, and a few trees.

Still, there are tears and loneliness and a grumpy nurse who steals Betty’s enjoyment in the end. The poem could also do with some grammatical editing (if I were to be really picky).

Smudge is a lighthearted look at how we might react to a blemish on our face. Some might see it as just a blemish, `something to buy a concealer for`. Some might see it as a cancer that signifies `the end`. We are responsible for our outlook.

Exposed is a collection of interesting poems about the more significant questions of life, but I was left feeling a little deflated. I think there is always some positivity we can glean from most situations, and this set of poems didn’t seem to offer much hope, apart from a gulp of fresh air and a patch of garden. Questions are asked about the value and meaning of life but no answers are provided. Perhaps because the answers are different for each person and we need to go on our own journey of discovery to find them.


[1] https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Exposed.html?id=Cda-vAEACAAJ&source=kp_book_description&redir_esc=y

[2] Exposed, page 4

[3] Decline, page 9

[4] Rx, page 19

Samantha Maw is a teacher living in Lincoln (England).  She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing and is a member of Lincoln Creative Writers and Outspoken Poets. She performs at local Spoken Word events and is a regular contributor for the Impspired Literary Journal. She also hosts Word Perfect on Siren FM.

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