Voyage of the Sable Venus

Voyage of the Sable Venus

And Other Poems

Book - 2015
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A stunning poetry debut: this meditation on the black female figure throughout time introduces us to a brave and penetrating new voice. Robin Coste Lewis's electrifying collection is a triptych that begins and ends with lyric poems considering the roles desire and race play in the construction of the self. The central panel is the title poem, 'Voyage of the Sable Venus,' a riveting 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 autobiographical poems, 'Voyage' is a tender and shocking study of the fragmentary mysteries of stereotype, as it juxtaposes our names for things with what we actually see and know. Offering 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 has art played in this ancient, often heinous story? From the 'Young Black Female Carrying / a Perfume Vase' to a 'Little Brown Girl / Girl Standing in a Tree / First Day of Voluntary / School Integration,' this poet 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 and how they define us all, including herself, as she explores 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.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
ISBN: 9781101875438
1101875437
Branch Call Number: 821 L6734v
Characteristics: x, 142 pages ; 25 cm

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Robin Coste Lewis uses the idea of the triptych to present autobiographical poems and a narrative poem of the black woman figure in Western art.


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NaomiBenaron
Oct 10, 2018

This is a startlingly original work: brave, evocative, provocative, and incredibly well-researched. These poems speak to the reader on their own terms, which may require an initial leap of faith. The personal, narrative poems spoke to me more viscerally, but the long title poem was a masterful work.

The poem "Lure" took my breath away on so many levels. It is in my heart, my spirit, and my mind forever.

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mmontserrat
Apr 23, 2018

The poems are strong, startling, excellent in the first and final sections. The long poem in the middle section I found less moving, but it contains evocative moments as well. Highly recommended.

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