"Rob Griffith’s third book is a tour de force of metrical mastery but, even more so, a moving exploration of the love, faith, and grief that lie at what Yeats called 'the deep heart’s core.' From a moving two-part sequence on the doubts and triumphs of Saint Columba in the British isles of the early Christian era, to quietly powerful poems that explore the losses and rewards of domestic life, Griffith writes with enviable wit, intelligence, and sensitivity. His love poems are unsurpassed in their aching tenderness, their keen awareness of time’s surrounding presence: 'as the world/goes dark, a stage that fades to black, we glow.' Readers caught in the glow of these stunning poems will discover a pilgrimage made poignant by doubt and faith—where even the cries of birds are 'psalms/that knit your world to mine, the unseen and the seen.' Yet it is the seen world that emerges most vividly here, alive in the 'raptured light' of Griffith’s superb command of craft and unflinching vision."

—Ned Balbo

"In Rob Griffith’s The Devil of the Milk, he gives us the fishing trips and porchlit lawns of suburban America in conversation with that great Irish fisher of souls, Saint Columcille of Iona. Columcille gave up his claims as a clan prince to take orders as a monk, founding dozens of monasteries, and went into exile on the deserted isle of Iona, from which he and his followers did outreach to convert the Picts and others to Christianity. He was also a poet. Griffith’s poems channel Yeats and Robert Lowell, with wonderfully wrought forms gem-set with assonance and consonance: 'The aster,/ thrift, and campion spread across the wrack/in lambent scarves of purple, pink, and white.' This is an Ireland of the past brought powerfully back to life, down to the details of fish and fowl and flora and fauna: 'But God is in the corncrake and rock dove,/the kittiwake and goldeneye, the moorhen/and tystie.' And it is an America in search of its spiritual center and seeking to store its angst away in Tupperware and Ziploc bags in the cold white coffin of the fridge and hoping “To learn that death is not the only answer.” This extended sequence about Griffith’s spiritual quest and doubt is dramatic and sorrowful and uplifting, but it is also several things beyond: Beautiful, full of heart, intimately crafted and yet simple and direct, poetry of the highest order."

—Tony Barnstone

"The title sold me. So unexpectedly lyrical. So oddly familiar. The Devil in the Milk lives up to its name. These poems artfully explore the evangelical and the everyday, finding the devil deep in an aching joint, fixating on a winter sky’s salvation and brimstone, fishing in an Ozark stream where a choir of mockingbirds say 'joy.' But it’s not only about belief and religion, or lost hope and optimism for something better than this world. The book lives in our presence, however fleeting, in between. While the speaker in 'A Burden of Light' tells himself to 'step lightly, lightly,' he, like every poem in this collection, certainly leaves a mark."

—Erica Dawson

"St. Columba, who figures prominently in these remarkable poems, journeyed from Ireland to save the souls of men, discovering along the way that all prophecy is a death sentence. Griffith, his contemporary heir and assign, ventures from his own house to find and save his own. The adventure may be merely suburban, but 'he can feel / the constant wash of days and nights unlived / against his shores.' The question he raises is a timeless one: 'Should we ask more of life than life?' The answer is found in the necessary negations that are the springs of joy."

—R. S. Gwynn

"Having clearly demonstrated his pre-eminence among contemporary poets with his previous book, The Moon from Every Window, Rob Griffith has now ascended to the most important and gifted voice of our time. The artfully ordered poems comprising The Devil in the Milk bravely confront the darkness residing in the 'deep heart’s core' as time passes and the struggles of faith and doubt grow increasingly urgent to resolve. These resonant poems—including many convincing Saint Columba dramatic monologues that parallel the emotional and spiritual journeys of the collection’s modern speaker—address a maturing generation awakened to spiritual contemplation and unease from the soporific effects of a materially comfortable life in suburbia, which is memorably evoked as the present land of the lotus-eaters, its inhabitants, drugged on manicured lawns and routine lives, unaware of the need to press onward to a truer home, the discovery of the redemptive light of imagination and pure love, suggested by the opening lines of 'Green Heaven': 'The heart in its bone-house dreams of love / and time'. The Devil in the Milk is vital in its subtle admonition to engage fully in our brief physical existence."  

—Samuel Maio




“Rob Griffith's new collection of poems, The Moon from Every Window, is a poised, polished, extraordinary book of formal dexterity and technical aplomb. And in these pages is the heartbreaking story of a couple on the rocks, elegant, windswept, and soulful. Read the last lines, if even only those. Read ´em and weep.”

—  Greg Williamson

“Rob Griffith’s previous collection, A Matinee in Plato’s Cave, established him as one of the most promising younger poets of our time.  That promise now has been fulfilled -- surpassed -- with the appearance of The Moon from Every Window, poems evoking the quiet desperation of love.  The melodic voice in many of these poems is one of emotional loneliness, of unfulfilled longing, of expectations disappointed due largely to the speaker’s misperception and inability to communicate his feelings to his loved ones.  The unspoken desires betrayed in poems such as ‘Each Night,’ ‘Separating,’ ‘Leaving by Train,’ and ‘Empty House’ -- from which the final, haunting line the collection’s title is taken -- is to love and be loved.  Yet there is a cautionary aspect to the speaker, who meditates upon the Uncertainty Principle in a moving sequence of ‘Heisenberg’ poems that reveals his intensely private nature, one marked by independence of spirit in need of solitude and the unsettling tendency to feel misunderstood and unappreciated by those he loves.  Here is deeply moving poetry, mature and memorable, of a kind we have not seen since Auden. Rob Griffith must now be included in any discussion of the elite number of our best poets at work today.”

—  Samuel Maio

“I love how Rob Griffith finds the poetry in an everyday moment and renders it so precisely that it becomes radiant, a beacon to guide us along the waters of our lives.  The Moon from Every Window contains a dog peeing on hydrangeas, a sexually fraught student-teacher conference, a hitchhiker in Tennessee, and a trip to the Memphis Zoo where bears sit ‘like mourners in a church, their great brown paws / still and flat across their knees.’  Yes, this is the world we inhabit--but when has it been seen so freshly?   A master of form with a pitch-perfect ear, Griffith offers graceful blank verse, sonnets, and dramatic monologues that remind us of the fullness of the poetic tradition and how big and bold a collection can be when its author is conversant with the masters.  Bravo.”

—  Beth Ann Fennelly

“Written in a wide variety of traditional poetic forms--blank verse, the sonnet, terza rima, quatrains, haiku, the villanelle--Rob Griffith’s poems come from a mind awake to some of the most profound mysteries of the human condition. The poems address the joys and troubles of family life, the beauty and violence of nature, the powers and limits of language (including metaphor), time and mutability and death, the domestic and the public worlds, the dramatic tension between different modes of knowing (the mathematical and abstract versus the everyday appearances of things), the ultimate meaning (if any) of human life, and, most movingly perhaps, the seemingly essential loneliness of each human being, a loneliness from which there may be respite, either with others or by oneself, in a room, a house, or on an island--or at least in the bleak consolation that perceiving the truth of things can bring. Griffith is so good at weaving these themes through images and conceptual statements that the reader loses himself in these well-crafted poems not through a Coleridgean ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ but through the conviction that, yes, this is the way life really is.

“Yet though the cold light of a dusty moon may indeed shine through every window into the poet’s sometimes lonely house of self, there are also consolations that may be answers--a wife’s return home which distracts the poet from excessive rumination while preparing a meal in the kitchen, the pledge of kinfolk to be there when newlyweds settle into everyday life and need emotional support, or when, in one of several excellent poems on Heisenberg and the problems of knowing and being, the poet has Einstein tell Heisenberg that a cure for loneliness may be found if only Heisenberg will enter into a lovingly sympathetic relationship with other people, in this case country people living in the Arkansas hills: ‘and H. imagines how, in every kitchen, / the fulgent lights dispel all shadow, how, / the glow is steady, warm, and clear as sun.’ This going out of the self to understand itself by way of a precise knowledge of a world beyond is summed up best  perhaps in the ‘The Cartographer,’ a poem in which a Lisbon mapmaker in the Age of Discovery encounters the country of his own true nature through the objectivity of his craft that in mapping the outer world comes upon the inner: ‘He will urge the stylus across the copperplate, / his hand always moving out / to find his own heart, sea-dark and vast.’

“Like Matthew Arnold, Griffith often walks where waves throw pebble after pebble on the ‘darkling plain’ of Dover Beach--water and water journeys figure prominently in these poems--but, like Wallace Stevens, Griffith also has faith in the power of imagination, especially metaphor, to link humans to the natural order and one another and to provide at least some hope that mind can find meaning--or at least a temporary home--in the world and perhaps come to affirm, as Stevens does, that, from imagination’s light ‘We make a dwelling in the evening air, / In which being there together is enough.’”

—   David Middleton





“Violence and tenderness coexist uneasily—as well they should—in Rob Griffith’s marvelous book. A housewife watches an airman fall from the sky, a bankrupt minister kills himself, a pair of woozy lovers find a bleak moment of truth in the back seat of a rusty Monte Carlo—these are the vignettes from lives hanging in the balance artfully depicted in A Matinee in Plato’s Cave. Maneuvering deftly through such demanding forms as the villanelle, rondeau, and sonnet, Griffith has produced a debut volume to remember.”

 — R.S. Gwynn

"Drenched in place like James Dickey, and writing with the grace of Phillip Larkin, Rob Griffith has produced a moving and original book. It's all here: Adam forgetting the names of things when he finds himself without Eve; Livia poisoning Caesar by climbing into 'his fig tree's black arms' and 'lacquering every fig with poison'; the high school reunion attendee learning that 'a dream deferred/ sometimes wears too much makeup / and drives a purple El Camino.' These poems are wise in the ways of the world. They present, with subtlety and suppleness, the situations in which we learn and relearn what it means to be human. Every reader will give A Matinee in Plato's Cave two big thumbs up."

--Beth Ann Fennelly

"A Matinee in Plato's Cave weaves biography, history, music, and legend into poems that teach us how to leave 'dreaming and face the world.' Juxtaposing poems about death with those about love, about life, Griffith allows us to enter other lives through an abundance of sensual detail. With subjects as varied as Livia lacquering figs with poison to kill Caesar, a pastor who hangs himself because he used church money to bet on dogs or running over frogs in Arkansas, Griffith uses words to 'sluice the body down to bone.' Struggling with 'the basic inability of parables or poems to reveal our full flesh,' he describes watching girls dance in The Kudzu Kitten, a wedding proposal during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game, and a swan abandoned by its mate because he has lost a wing. Knowing that the world will not be tamed, this impressive collection stays centered on human experience. Rob Griffith's compelling poems cleave the heart and then teach it how to heal."

--Vivian Shipley

"Rob Griffith's poems have the marvelous quality of belonging comfortably to our day and at the same time to the priceless past. Reading them, one could be listening to a story or a confession in a bar room, hearing almost accidental pattern and rhyme that enrich the telling without suggesting the classroom. Yes."

--Miller Williams