Invisible to Whom? A Dialogue in Verse

Mar 1, 2023

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, NY, NY

In celebration of the seventieth anniversary of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Schomburg Center, and Cave Canem commissioned poets Cameron Awkward-Rich, Kadeem Gayle, and Lorelei Williams to create ekphrastic poems inspired by the novel and Elizabeth Catlett’s sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison (2003). Join us for an exploration of poetic contributions that have reframed the narrative around the book by focusing on houselessness, incarceration, and femme, trans, and LGBTQ-identifying people. 


“Invisible to Whom?: A Dialogue in Verse” is a part of Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man at 70: A Harlem Celebration.” Harlem Stage and Maysles Documentary Center lead a consortium of Harlem arts organizations that includes the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Ralph Ellison Memorial Committee, in celebration of the seventieth anniversary of Ralph Ellison’s seminal novel, Invisible Man. For information about our peer organizations’ programming, visit here

Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of two collections of poetry—Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016) and Dispatch (Persea Books, 2019)—as well as The Terrible We: Thinking with Trans Maladjustment (Duke University Press, 2022). His writing has appeared, in various forms, in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Signs, and elsewhere, and has been supported by fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, and the ACLS. Presently, he is an assistant professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Kadeem Gayle is a patient advocate, poet, and medical humanist of Jamaican descent, born in Boston, Massachusetts. At three years old, Gayle was diagnosed with sickle cell disease (SCD), a rare genetic blood disorder that causes a serious range of health issues. Despite the challenges of living with SCD, Gayle has found positive ways to live and cope with his illness. Gayle is currently a doctoral candidate at Drew University studying medical and health humanities. Gayle started writing poetry at the age of fifteen and has found writing to be a positive outlet that promotes healing and humanizes the SCD experience. Gayle has written for the Republican newspaper of Springfield, Massachusetts. Gayle is currently a credentialed Independent Patient Advocate through the Sickle Cell Community Consortium. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University and is a third-year Cave Canem Fellow.

Lorelei Williams is a poet, philanthropic strategist, and proud mama. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Warner Music Group/Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund and has spent her career committed to Black liberation and social justice movement building across the United States and African Diaspora. Williams’s writings have appeared in Essence, Meridians, Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, and African Voices, and in the anthologies Be the Dream (Algonquin Books, 2003); Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (Black Classic Press, 2002); Cave Canem III (Black Classic Press); and Guerreras y Cimmaronas (University of Houston Arte Publico Press, 2012). She is a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities and a member of the inaugural class of Cave Canem poets.

Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. 

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, one of the New York Public Library’s renowned research libraries, is a world-leading cultural institution devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. 

The Studio Museum in Harlem is the nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally, and internationally and for work that has been inspired and influenced by Black culture. It is a site for the dynamic exchange of ideas about art and society.  


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Invisible to Whom?:
Poetic Responses to Invisible Man
Soldier in Crisis

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Invisible to Whom?:
Poetic Responses to Invisible Man
Trans Study: Invisible Man (2003)

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Invisible to Whom?:
Poetic Responses to Invisible Man

Black Bird

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This program is made possible thanks in part to The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Learning and Engagement supporters, including the Thompson Foundation Education Fund; Van Cleef & Arpels; William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust; Con Edison; May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation; Sony Music Group; and Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts. Additional funding for this program provided by Bloomberg Connects. Other support thanks to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and New York State Council on the Arts.