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Alum Robin Coste Lewis Wins National Book Award for Poetry

Hampshire alum and former faculty member Robin Coste Lewis has won the 2015 National Book Award for Poetry.

Hampshire alum Robin Coste Lewis 86S has won the 2015 National Book Award for Poetry for her debut collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus.

Robin Coste Lewis
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

She accepted the award at the 66th annual National Book Awards ceremony, held on Wednesday, November 18, in New York City, for her collection of poems that considers the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self, and questions where, historically, do ideas about the black female figure truly begin.

In her acceptance speech, Lewis specifically expressed gratitude for her teachers, including professors Nina Payne and Andrew Salkey, whom Lewis worked with at Hampshire.

She said, “I have had the profound honor of studying with some of the greatest poets of our time….Their exquisite generosity is one of the primary reasons I am standing here tonight.”

Lewis, who was a student at the College in the late 1980s, later served as a member of the faculty from 1999-2002. Last month, Lewis returned to Hampshire to give a reading from Voyage of the Sable Venus.

Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at the University of Southern California. She is also 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, among them the Massachusetts Review, Callaloo, the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Phantom Limb, and the Lambda Literary Review.

Ta-Nehisi Coates won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for Between the World and Me, Adam Johnson won the Award for Fiction for Fortune Smiles, and Neal Shusterman won the Award for Young People’s Literature for Challenger Deep.

Watch Robin Coste Lewis read The Body in August:

Read Select National Book Awards Media Coverage


Publishers Weekly

Washington Post



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