Skip to Main Content (Press Enter)
To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness by Robin Coste Lewis
Add To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness to bookshelf
Add to Bookshelf

To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness

Best Seller
To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness by Robin Coste Lewis
Hardcover $35.00
Dec 06, 2022 | ISBN 9781524732585

Buy from Other Retailers:

See All Formats (2) +
  • Dec 06, 2022 | ISBN 9781524732585

    Buy from Other Retailers:

  • Dec 06, 2022 | ISBN 9781524732592

    Buy from Other Retailers:

Buy the Audiobook Download:

Product Details


Winner of the PEN/Voelcker Award for PoetryNAACP Image Awards Winner • Best Book of 2022: CNN Style

“Robin Coste Lewis has created a photographic and linguistic archive that draws from the pre-diasporic truth of family — family before Blackness and before the permutations of misunderstandings by others about ‘us.’ Her poems never stop offering me ways to more deeply understand the complex ways of being migratory, beautiful and optimistic in times of gross inequity. Lewis creates light and portals that reveal our truth through words and the images underneath our grandmother’s bed.” —Theaster Gates, CNN

“The exquisite To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness, is a book about how the dead do not stay dead. Lewis’s elegiac and haunted volume . . . is another voyage. But the view is different, as is the destination: what Lewis is resuscitating here is a community, a family she knew or wishes she’d known.” —Hilton Als, The New Yorker
“Lewis pushes the limits of language and image, composing lines alongside a cache of hundreds of photographs found under her late grandmother’s bed only days before the house was slated to be razed. A sense of loss and near-loss pervades the book. The photopoem does more than preserve—it provokes, mourns, philosophizes, yearns, and celebrates, much like the jazz of Lewis’s ancestral Louisiana . . . Its achievement is cosmic and sonic.” —Kevin Young, The New Yorker
To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness is a hybrid text concerned with the recent past and excavating what Lewis calls deep time—millennia of Black art-making, community-building and innovation. To accomplish this excavation, Lewis arranges photos she discovered 25 years ago in a suitcase at her grandmother’s home so that they are in conversation with her own layered, lush poetry. The result is a book steeped in a particular history—Black migrants from Louisiana living in Los Angeles in the 20th century—yet buoyed by a feeling of boundlessness.” —Angela Flournoy, The Los Angeles Times
“Juxtapositions of text and photograph spark unexpected electric arcs, illuminating the photographic subjects’ inner lives . . . Lewis’s language has a washed clarity . . . At once authoritative and piercingly human, To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness is an extraordinary atlas for an unmapped world.” —Sylee Gore, The Poetry Foundation

“Lewis weaves a documentary poetic work. Evident from the opening pages, one of the central interests of this exceptional collection is migration: “Signs and marks/ and nothing/ with which to apprentice them.// Evolution—/ the migration/ of imagination—// the image just/ illusion: a profound, prehistoric/ technology of leaving.” The pairing of photographs and text expand existing notions of how any single artistic medium or form can capture the nuances of race, family, and history. Shining with Lewis’s trademark lyricism and fueled by resonant and inspired juxtapositions, this exquisite book makes an impact worth sharing widely and rereading.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)


NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work WINNER 2023

PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry WINNER 2023

Looking for More Great Reads?
21 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read
Back to Top