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Will Kherbek
art critic
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piqer: Will Kherbek
Saturday, 17 November 2018

Robin Coste Lewis And Rachel Zucker On Poetry And What Poetry Is Made From

Meticulous attention is the term the poet, Robin Coste Lewis, uses to describe the imperative of her work. How much knowledge and understanding is available to an individual if one is prepared to bear the burden of actually seeing it? In Episode 60 of Rachel Zucker’s podcast, Commonplace, she speaks to Coste Lewis, the winner of the 2015 National Book Award, about these animating principles of the poet’s art, but also about their own shared story: Coste Lewis is one of Zucker’s former students. There is much to be learned both from presenter and guest, as Coste Lewis discusses the exuberant anxieties of life as a public poet, not least in her role as the poet laureate of the city of Los Angeles. Coste Lewis is interested as an artist, but also as a scholar, in how questions and topics are framed, what is included (intentionally and accidentally) and what is excluded, and her public role is something she has treated as an opportunity to shatter and remake the frames in which “Los Angeles poetry” is seen. The challenge of bringing marginal voices to the fore, finding excluded communities, and exploring the rich indigenous literary history of perhaps the most documented city in America is inspiring for her, as well as a task that expands geometrically as one undertakes it.

Commonplace is a podcast that is notable for its almost free-associative character. Stories emerge alongside and within other stories, and the rich intellectual and intertextual nature of Coste Lewis’ work suits the format perfectly. Discussing “Voyage of the Sable Venus” – her poem about the image of Black women in art history – or her fascination with the story of the African-American Arctic explorer, Matthew Henson, or her own struggle to recover her creative practice after a nearly debilitating accident in which she sustained traumatic brain injury, Coste Lewis is never less than fascinating. Coste Lewis and Zucker demonstrate how inspiring, painful, and necessary creative endeavour can be. Give them meticulous attention.

Robin Coste Lewis And Rachel Zucker On Poetry And What Poetry Is Made From
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