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Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis

This National Book Award-winning debut poetry collection is a “powerfully evocative” (The New York Review of Books) meditation on the black female figure through time.

Robin Coste Lewis’s electrifying collection is a triptych that begins and ends with lyric poems meditating on the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self.

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. Bracketed by Lewis’s own autobiographical poems, “Voyage” is a tender and shocking meditation on the fragmentary mysteries of stereotype, juxtaposing our names for things with what we actually see and know.

A new understanding of biography and the self, this collection questions just where, historically, do ideas about the black female figure truly begin—five hundred years ago, five thousand, or even longer? And what role did art play in this ancient, often heinous story? Here we meet a poet who adores her culture and the beauty to be found within it. Yet she is also a cultural critic alert to the nuances of race and desire—how they define us all, including her own sometimes painful history.

Lewis’s book is a thrilling aesthetic anthem to the complexity of race—a full embrace of its pleasure and horror, in equal parts.

” To keep you happy, I decorated the bars.
Because you had never been hungry, I knew

I could tell you the black side
of my family owned slaves.

I realize this is perhaps
the one reason why I love you,

( . . . . . )  “

Robin Coste Lewis is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including The Massachusetts Review, Callaloo, The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, Transition, and VIDA.
Lewis earned her BA from Hampshire College, her MFA from NYU’s Creative Writing Program, and an MTS degree in Sanskrit and comparative religious literature from Harvard Divinity School. A Cave Canem fellow, a Los Angeles Institute of the Humanities fellow, Lewis was also awarded a Provost’s fellowship in the Creative Writing & Literature PhD Program at USC. Other fellowships and awards include the Caldera Foundation, the Ragdale Foundation, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya. She was a finalist for the International War Poetry Prize, the National Rita Dove Prize, and semi-finalist for the “Discovery”/Boston Review Prize and the Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Prize.
Lewis has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, Hampshire College and the NYU Low-Residency MFA in Paris. Born in Compton, California, her family is from New Orleans.

Voyage of the Sable Venus
and Other Poems
by Robin Coste Lewis
Category: Poetry
Paperback
$19.95
2017
ISBN 9781101911204
Publisher : Knopf (1st edition 2015)
Language : English
160 pages
ISBN-10 : 1101875437
ISBN-13 : 978-1101875438

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