Matter , 2016. 54x36. Acrylic, Gouache, Pencil on Paper.

Matter, 2016. 54x36. Acrylic, Gouache, Pencil on Paper.

AMERICAN STANZAS       2006 - 2016             photographs + Mixed media                    

Poets House is proud to announce American Stanzas: 2006-2016, a solo exhibition with visual artist and poet, Rachel Eliza Griffths, on view at Poets House from October 28, 2016-February 18, 2017. American Stanzas explores the nuances of poetics, language, and imagery in relationship to Black identity and includes many photographs and portraits of acclaimed Cave Canem poets, an organization widely credited for altering the American literary canon and addressing issues of under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape. The exhibition and related events are co-sponsored by Poets House and Cave Canem.


American Stanzas: 2006 – 2016 presents selected portraits, mixed media, and archival snapshots of the Cave Canem fellowship over the last decade including prize-winning poets such as Lucille Clifton, Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, Toi Derricotte, Elizabeth Alexander, Carl Phillips, Yusef Komunyakaa, Nikky Finney, Tracy K. Smith, Gregory Pardlo, Patricia Smith, Willie Perdomo, Mahogany Browne, Morgan Parker, Terrance Hayes, and many others.


Griffiths’ photography marries lyrical and visual cartographies in which race, gender, sexuality, imagination, history, and language orbit each other. Griffiths, in her articulation of and insistence upon beauty and resistance, offers a three-dimensional seeing of Black lives and agency in the landscape of American letters and beyond. Griffiths’s art acknowledges and celebrates the spaces in which black bodies survive and exist with dignity, intelligence, joy, truth, strength, and flaws, while manifesting a humanity that is complicated, rather than oppressive, reductive, or exoticized. Griffiths’s work offers an inquisitive and investigative look at personal and national identity against the landscape of American history and its many narratives.  


Griffiths mixed media work explores the ways in which her identity is grounded in both visual arts and language. Works on paper, lyrical videos, and other mixed mediums contain texts by Black poets and expand to national conversations about race, violence, language, history, culture, and art.


With this exhibition, Poets House continues its tradition of presenting exhibitions that focus on both the physical and visual manifestation of poetry as well as works by visual artists that correspond to the poetic impulse. From individual works of art —paintings by E. E. Cummings and Philip Guston — to full exhibits that highlight original manuscripts, drafts of poems, correspondence, photographs, drawings, prints, paintings, books, and ephemera, Poets House is dedicated to both poetry and to the art of poetry.

Related Events:


October 28, 2016, 6:00-8:00PM

Opening Reception for American Stanzas: 2006–2016

Opening reception for American Stanzas: 2006-2016, an exhibit featuring selected photography and mixed media works by poet, photographer, and visual artist Rachel Eliza Griffiths.


November 3, 2016, 7:00PM

American Stanzas: A Reading

In conjunction with her Poets House photography exhibit, American Stanzas 2006-2016, poet, photographer, and Cave Canem Fellow Rachel Eliza Griffiths hosts Mahogany Browne, Aracelis Girmay, Rickey Laurentiis, Nathan McClain, Angel Nafis, Morgan Parker, and Iain Haley Pollock reading their work and celebrating their shared histories.


January 21, 2017, 2:00PM to 5:00PM

Seeing our Stanzas: Ekphrasis & Identity with Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Fee $75)

In this one-day workshop participants will write towards both personal and national identity and imaginations through the space of visual art. Using American Stanzas: 2006 – 2016 as a three-dimensional text, Rachel Eliza Griffiths will lead a detailed writing workshop that will include close readings of Cave Canem poetry that inspired her exhibit, generative writing prompts, and interactive discussions with participants about their own writing practices. This workshop will focus its energy on the richly, complex act and art of bridging language and imagery. Please visit to register.