Robin Coste Lewis

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Robin Coste Lewis
Alma materHampshire College (BA)
New York University (MFA)
Harvard University (MTS)
University of Southern California (PhD)
OccupationPoet, writer, professor
Notable work
Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems
AwardsNational Book Award for Poetry

Robin Coste Lewis is an American poet. She is known for her book, Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry.[1]


Lewis is the poet laureate for the city of Los Angeles and is one of the recipients of the 2018 Women of the Year Award.[2] She was born in Compton, California, and her family is from New Orleans.[3]

Lewis wanted to be a writer from a young age, initially focused on becoming a novelist. After falling through a hole in the floor of a San Francisco restaurant,[4] an accident which caused permanent brain damage and kept her bedridden for two years, Lewis refocused her attentions on poetry.[5]

At 17, Lewis had an internship at Kitchen Table Press.[6] After undergraduate studies in comparative literature at Hampshire College,[7][5] Lewis earned her MFA from New York University's creative writing program,[3] where she was a Goldwater Fellow in poetry. She also earned a MTS degree in Sanskrit and comparative religious literature from Harvard University's divinity school, and a PhD from the creative writing and literature program at the University of Southern California,[3] where she was a provost fellow in poetry and visual studies. There, Lewis researched the intersecting production histories of early African American poetry and photography, for which she received the Anne Friedberg memorial grant from USC's Visual Studies Research Institute. Other fellowships and awards include those from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Los Angeles Institute of the Humanities, the Caldera Foundation, the Ragdale Foundation, the Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya. Lewis was also a finalist for the International War Poetry Prize, the National Rita Dove Prize, the California Book Award, the LA Times Book Prize, and the Hurston-Wright Award.

Lewis has taught on the faculty of Wheaton College, Hunter College, and Hampshire College. Currently, she teaches in NYU's low-residency MFA in Paris, and is a writer-in-residence at USC. She lives in Los Angeles.[8] Lewis has a son, Henri.[6]


Lewis is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems[9][10] (2015), winner of the National Book Award for Poetry—and the first poetry debut to win the award since 1974. Critics called her first collection "stunning…a masterpiece…surpassing imagination, maturity, and aesthetic dazzle…a book that is formally polished, emotionally raw, and wholly exquisite." Lewis is also the author, with Kevin Young, of a series of commissioned poems that accompany Robert Rauschenberg's drawings in Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante's Inferno (MoMA), as well as Prosthetic (forthcoming from Knopf). Her writing has also appeared in journals and anthologies including The New Yorker, The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Best American Poetry, Callaloo, Transition, and Vida.

One of Lewis's major influences is fellow Los Angeles poet Wanda Coleman.[4]


  • Lewis, Robin C. Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. ISBN 9781101875438


  1. ^ "Voyage of the Sable Venus Winner, National Book Awards 2015 for Poetry", National Book Foundation.
  2. ^ "Women of the Year Awards", Commission for Women.
  3. ^ a b c "About – Robin Coste Lewis". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b Fleishman, Jeffrey. "Voices of the City: Robin Coste Lewis' fierce and arresting poetry has its roots in Compton". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Chen, Angela (21 December 2015). "Poet Robin Coste Lewis: 'I am an artist through to my marrow'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b Lewis, Leah Mirakhor interviews Robin Coste. "A Door to Robin Coste Lewis's Los Angeles". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Boarding the Voyage: The Archive as Altar, Research as Ritual—An Evening with Robin Coste Lewis | Harvard College". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  8. ^ Lewis, Robin Coste (13 July 2015). "Robin Coste Lewis - Poet | Academy of American Poets". Robin Coste Lewis. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  9. ^ Garner, Dwight (1 December 2015). "Speaking 'Blackly,' in Artful Strokes of Provocation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  10. ^ Chiasson, Dan (19 October 2015). "Rebirth of Venus Robin Coste Lewis's historical art". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2 December 2015.