Robin Coste Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies 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 1974.
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, and an MTS in Sanskrit and comparative religious literature from the Divinity School at Harvard University. 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.