Robin Coste Lewis

UO Today: Los Angeles poet laureate shares her work

After a traumatic brain injury, Robin Coste Lewis’ doctors only allowed her to write a single sentence each day.

“I would just be in bed thinking how to make this last the whole day,” she said. “Set it up to entertain myself, set up a puzzle. At some point I had this huge epiphany: ‘Oh my god, that’s what poetry is.’ You can put a whole essay into one line.”

This week on UO Today, two new interviews are available. The first is with Lewis, the poet laureate of Los Angeles and a writer-in-residence at the University of Southern California.

Lewis talked about and read aloud from her poetry collection, “Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems,” which won the 2015 National Book Award for poetry. For the book’s central poem, Lewis wove together the titles of artworks, ancient and contemporary, that include the black female body.

“Michelangelo said that he could see the David inside of the stone,” she said. “I could see this poem inside this big pile of text that I had accumulated.”

Lewis also read aloud from her collection. For more, watch the interview on the UO Today channel.

“UO Today” is a weekly half-hour interview program hosted by Paul Peppis, a UO English professor and director of the Oregon Humanities Center. Each episode features a conversation with UO faculty and administrators, visiting scholars, authors or artists.

It is produced by the Oregon Humanities Center in collaboration with UO Libraries’ Center for Media and Educational Technology. An archive of past interviews is available on the Oregon Humanities Center’s website or on their YouTube channel.