The Poet as Citizen

Claudia Rankine and Robin Coste Lewis
In Conversation With Maggie Nelson
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Episode Summary

Two powerful poets read from their work and discuss how poetry can become an active tool for rethinking race in America. Robin Coste Lewis reads from her upcoming poetry collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus, which lyrically catalogs representations of the black figure in the fine arts, with Claudia Rankine—a poet whose incendiary new book, Citizen: An American Lyric—is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our often named "post-racial" society.

Participant(s) Bio

Robin Coste Lewis is a Provost’s Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at USC. A Cave Canem fellow, she received her MFA from NYU and an MTS in Sanskrit from Harvard's Divinity School. A finalist for the International War Poetry Prize, the National Rita Dove Prize, and the Discovery Prize, her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. She has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, Hampshire College, and the NYU/MFA in Paris. Born in Compton, her family is from New Orleans. Her book of poems, Voyage of the Sable Venus, is forthcoming from Knopf.

Claudia Rankine is the author of four previous books, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. She currently serves as chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Pomona College in California. She is a recent recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize, given annually by Poets & Writers, "to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition."

Maggie Nelson is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, many of which have become cult classics defying categorization. Her nonfiction titles include The Argonauts (forthcoming in May 2015), The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), Bluets, The Red Parts: A Memoir and Women, The New York School, and Other True Abstractions. Her poetry titles include Something Bright, Then Holes and Jane: A Murder. She is the recipient of many awards, including an Arts Writers Fellowship from the Andy Warhol Foundation. She has taught on the faculty of the School of Critical Studies at CalArts since 2005.