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Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2015
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Description

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.

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Street Date:
09/29/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101875445
ASIN:
B00TWEMFVM
Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Robin Coste Lewis. (2015). Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Robin Coste Lewis. 2015. Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Robin Coste Lewis. Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 03, 2017 06:27:52
Date Updated:
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        ROBIN COSTE LEWIS is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Knopf, 2015), a National Book Award winner. She is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at the University of Southern California. Lewis is also a Cave Canem fellow and a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities. She received her BA from Hampshire College, her MFA in poetry from NYU, and an MTS in Sanskrit and comparative religious literature from the Divinity School at Harvard University. A previous 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.

      • name: Robin Coste Lewis
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Knopf
publishDate
2015-09-29T00:00:00-04:00
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title
Voyage of the Sable Venus
fullDescription

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.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Francine Prose, New York Review of Books
      • content: "Powerfully evocative . . . Among the virtues of the collection is the intensity of Lewis's faith in the power of language and image to tell us things that are true, but that are rarely said, about history, race, gender, power, the body, scholarship, and visual representation. In providing us with a revelatory gloss on centuries of art, Robin Coste Lewis has made us aware of the enormity of the change reflected and perhaps partly brought about by contemporary black women artists whose vision, originality, and humor offer a heartening corrective to the ghastly insult of the Sable Venus."
      • premium: False
      • source: Claudia Rankine
      • content: "Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems reframes the black figure, most specifically the black female, by pointing out the borders of black beauty, black happiness, and black resilience in our canonical visual culture. Tender and masterful opening and closing poems bookend the archival, lyric masterwork, "Voyage of the Sable Venus," at the center of the collection. This title poem upends the language of representation, collected from the cataloging of the black body in Western art. Robin Coste Lewis takes back depictions of the black feminine and refuses to land or hold down that which has always been alive and loving and lovely. Altogether new, open, experimental and ground-breaking, Lewis privileges real life in all its complications, surprises and triumphs over the frames that have locked down the scale of black womanhood."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from October 19, 2015
        Lewis���s astonishing debut full-length collection works as a triptych, with the title poem���s central panel flanked by autobiographical lyric poems that investigate intersections of blackness and gender, geography, alienation, and the formation of the self. The speakers of these poems adopt a variety of tones, ranging from sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek to gut-wrenchingly sincere. While the book���s first and third sections shine with uncompromising and brilliantly constructed poems, it is the eponymous second section that is truly extraordinary: a narrative sequence composed entirely of titles, catalogues, and exhibition descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is present. Through her recombination of found texts, Lewis denotes an assimilation of black femininity in the preexisting rhetoric of white-patriarchal depictions of the black female form in art and the museum setting. The procedure she employs is intentionally violent, parsing source material as it pertains to images of the black female form in a way that mimics the valuation of the black female body. As Lewis reworks fragments contextually rooted in ahistorical depictions of blackness, her meditations on the real origins of blackness are made visible. The result is a book that is formally polished, emotionally raw, and wholly exquisite.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 15, 2015

        In Lewis's (Provost's Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies, Univ. of Southern California) ambitious experimental three-part book, the first and third sections are made up of original poems and the second section (most of the book), "is a narrative poem comprised solely and entirely of the titles, catalog, or exhibit descriptions of Western art objects in which a black female figure is present." Like an erasure, then, the second section is a testament to playfulness but not originality. The list-like nature of those poems, epitomized by the pieces in "Catalog 4" (e.g., Our Lady/ of Presentation// Our Lady of the Confession"), reduces them to references, which have the benefit, as Yusef Komunyakaa says, of "mak[ing] us question racial constructs" in art history but little more. Lewis's original poems show range and density--the lines move easily between humor and social critique, and from narratives to fables, and put line breaks to great use ("Sometimes the ground swells/ With disappointment"). VERDICT Lacking a coherence across the sections, this title reads like two separate books.--Stephen Morrow, Hilliard, OH

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

popularity
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shortDescription

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...

sortTitle
Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems
crossRefId
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awards
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subtitle
and Other Poems
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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      • description: Poetry / American / African American & Black
      • code: POE024000
      • description: Poetry / Women Authors
      • code: SOC028000
      • description: Social Science / Women's Studies