#AWP16 Featured Presenter Q&A with Robin Coste Lewis

AWP | January 2016

Event Title: A Reading and Conversation with Douglas Kearney, Robin Coste Lewis, and Gregory Pardlo, Sponsored by Cave Canem
Description: Three poets read from collections that provoke new ways of seeing and thinking about culture, art, history, naming, race, and home. They discuss how strategies of experimental performative typography, meditations on the roles played by desire and race in the construction of the self, and autobiographical lyric poems connecting the complex intimacies of domestic life with the profound issues of our day create a seamless line between craft, vision, and critical thought.
Participants: April Naoko Heck, Douglas Kearney, Robin Coste Lewis, and Gregory Pardlo
Date & Time: Friday, April 1, 2016, 4:30pm – 5:45pm


Q: What are some of the conference events (besides your own) and/or bookfair exhibitors you are most excited to see?
On March 30, Claudia Rankine and I are hosting Cave Canem's VIP Reception, which is followed by the Annual Cave Canem Fellows Reading—about which I'm thrilled!  Both the reception and the reading raise funds for Cave Canem, so you can imagine how excited I am to be involved.  For those in the know, Cave Canem's Annual AWP Fellows Reading is a dynamic, poignant, and often hilarious event where some of the country's most talented poets read their work to a lively audience, and all for the great love of poetry!

Q: What book or books that you’ve read over the last year would you most highly recommend?
Multiply Divide by Wendy S Walters
White Girls by Hilton Als
Counternarratives by John Keene
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Ordinary Light by Tracy K Smith

Q: Given how much time writers spend alone to practice their craft, what do you think are the advantages of creating the large community that exists at the AWP conference?
Honestly, I come to AWP to see my friends!  Because writing is so solitary, as you say, and because I'm often reclusive, the chance to kiss the cheeks of folks I adore, all in one spot, is just irresistible.  I know I'm supposed to say I come for the great love of literature, which I do, but truly it's the people who create the literature that draws me each year.  To spend time with beloved friends—friends who know what it means to sit at that desk and work hard—is the fruit for me.  I spend the week laughing and crying.

Q: What question that you’ve never been asked before would you like to ask yourself? And how would you answer that question?
Malkovich, malkovich, malkovich malkovich!  This sounds like existentialism to the nth, like playing squash with myself, the ball ricocheting in perfect geometry back and forth between me.  I don't know how to answer this, but I do find myself wishing that we talked more closely about the poems themselves, their actual structure, their studs, their frames, why this cut here and not there, why this word, this title, this history?  In the swirl of it all, I think these conversations could enrich our engagement more deeply.

Q: Outside of the conference, what about Los Angeles are you looking forward to? Are there any Los Angeles activities you would recommend to conference attendees? 
A: A visit to Watts Towers.


Robin Coste LewisRobin Coste Lewis is a Provost's Fellow in Poetry and Visual Studies at USC, where she researches the history of the black anthology and black photography. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus.

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