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Robin Coste Lewis

National Book Award-winning poet, author of Voyage of the Sable Venus

2015 NBA Poetry Award Winner: Robin Coste Lewis
  • About Robin Coste Lewis

    Robin Coste Lewis is the poet laureate of Los Angeles and writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California. In 2015 she published her stunning poetry debut, Voyage of the Sable Venus. This first collection is one of surpassing imagination, maturity, and aesthetic dazzle. It was widely praised by critics and honored with the 2015 National Book Award for Poetry—the first poetry debut to do so since 1975.

    Voyage of the Sable Venus is a meditation on the black female figure through time. In the center of the collection is the title poem, “Voyage of the Sable Venus,” an amazing narrative made up entirely of titles of artworks from ancient times to the present—titles that feature or in some way comment on the black female figure in Western art. The collection presents a new understanding of biography and self and is a thrilling testament to the complexity of race—a full embrace of its pleasure and horror, in equal parts.

    Lewis is a Cave Canem fellow and a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. She received her MFA in poetry from NYU, an MTS in Sanskrit and comparative religious literature from the Divinity School at Harvard University, and a PhD in poetry and visual studies from the University of Southern California. A finalist for the Rita Dove Poetry Award, she has published her work in various journals and anthologies, including The Massachusetts Review, Callaloo, The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, Transition: Women in Literary Arts, VIDA, Phantom Limb, and Lambda Literary Review, among others. She has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, Hampshire College, and the NYU Low-Residency MFA in Paris. Lewis was born in Compton, California; her family is from New Orleans.

  • Speaking Topics

    Race and the Erasure

    This lecture looks at the history of poetic erasure within the context of race and post colonialism.

    Boarding the Voyage

    Based on the research she did for Voyage of the Sable Venus, in this craft talk Robin Coste Lewis speaks about the pleasures and horrors of the archive, art history, and race.

  • Video

  • Praise for Robin Coste Lewis


    Robin brought the house down at Otis last night. She read her gorgeous writing with so much wattage–the students were floored. She answered their questions with tremendous thought and care. Please let her know how much we appreciate the time she spent with us.

    Otis College of Art and Design
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  • 212 572-2013
  • Robin Coste Lewis travels from Los Angeles, CA

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