Photo by Amanda Schwengel, courtesy of Hampshire College

The prestigious National Book Award for Poetry has gone to some of the country’s most celebrated poets, including W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell — and most recently Robin Coste Lewis, a doctoral student at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

Lewis’ collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus, is her first book. It’s only the third time that a debut work has won a National Book Award. She describes the award as both a profound honor and “yet another accomplishment for African-American poetry.”

Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis
Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

Lewis edited the book during her first year at USC Dornsife and acknowledged the invaluable counsel from faculty, including her doctoral adviser Kate Flint, Provost Professor of Art History and English, and Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor of English. “They were incredible mentors,” Lewis says.

What’s next? A doctoral dissertation addressing visual representations of Oscar Wilde in the United States is in the works—as well as a book on the intersection of the history of black photography and black poetry.

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