Sewell, Lisa 1960–

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Sewell, Lisa 1960–

PERSONAL: Born March 9, 1960, in Hollywood, CA; daughter of George and Edith Sewell. Education: University of California—Berkeley, B.A., 1984; New York University, M.A., 1988; Tufts University, Ph.D., 1998.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Ave., Villanova, PA 19085. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: New York University, New York, NY, instructor in English, 1987–88; Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, visiting lecturer in English, 1997–98; Villanova University, Villanova, PA, began as assistant professor, became associate professor of English and creative writing, 1998–. Goldwater State Hospital for the Severely Disabled, instructor in creative writing, 1987–88; speaker at educational institutions, libraries and museums, and writers' gatherings.

MEMBER: Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Modern Language Association of America, American Literature Association, Associated Writing Programs.

AWARDS, HONORS: Resident at Millay Colony for the Arts, 1992, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, 1993, 1994, 1996, and Blue Mountain Center, 1994, Pushcart Prize nominations, Academy of American Poets, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2002; poetry grant, Massachusetts Cultural Council, 1994; scholar's fellow, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 1994; Yaddo fellow, 1996, 1999, 2003; National Prize in Poetry from the Loft (Minneapolis, MN), 1996, for "The Miraculous"; poetry fellow, Fine Arts Work Center (Provincetown, MA), 1996–97; fellow, MacDowell Colony, 1997–98; creative writing fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1999; resident at Fundación Valparaiso (Spain), 2000; international exchange fellow, Schloss Wiepersdorf (Germany), 2001; achievement grant in poetry, Leeway Foundation, 2001; international exchange fellow, Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), 2002; poetry fellow, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, 2002.


The Way Out: Poems, Alice James Books (Farmington, ME), 1998.

(Editor, with Claudia Rankine) American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2006.

Name Witheld (poetry), Four Way Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation, Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2000. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pequod, Passages North, Massachusetts Review, Third Coast, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Gulf Coast. Former assistant poetry editor, Descant.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A memoir of the author's father, tentatively titled Century; Autobibliography, a poetry manuscript.

SIDELIGHTS: Lisa Sewell studied genetics and marine biology at the University of California—Berkeley and creative writing at New York University. While continuing her education, she wrote her first collection, The Way Out: Poems. David Daniel wrote in Ploughshares that Sewell's poetry "explores territory that's not fit for the timid; whether she's writing about the body's generation or its decay, or of love, or sex, or of abortions, she does so with a precise, lidless eye. One welcomes her careful charting of the fleshy world and all of its difficulties."

The poems in The Way Out reflect such diverse worlds as those of Italian poet Dante Alighieri, the mythologic figure of Persephone, and German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. Some are Sewell's observations, and others offer insights to the poet herself. In "Evolution," Sewell writes of the way an unexpected negative word or phrase, spoken on the phone, can change the perception of life. "Maybe this sourness and spastic stomach are what the first amphibian tasted the day its gills sprouted into lungs." In "Human Nature" Sewell questions her willingness to respond to a kiss and wonders whether it is part of her nature. "What if wired into me, part of the helical strands of code that made my hair brown and my elbows bony, is the kiss?" On the Alice James Poetry Cooperative Web site, reviewer Frank Bidart called The Way Out a "ferocious book" containing poems of "great weight and power." Bidart declared that the collection "dares to enter the many underworlds of human existence." Deborah Digges added to the Web site dialogue on Sewell's work, noting that the poems "enact a lyric muscle that explodes narrative." And Mark Doty found the collection to be an "engaging quarrel with the fact of flesh."

Sewell once told CA: "I write poems out of a desire to understand experience—and to put pressure on the truths that inform that experience, to ask if myth or history can help me shed light on it, to ask if memory can be relied upon."



Sewell, Lisa, The Way Out: Poems, Alice James Books (Farmington, ME), 1998.


Boston Review of Books, November, 1998.

Colorado Review, spring, 1999.

Ploughshares, fall, 1998, David Daniel, review of The Way Out.

Quarterly West, spring-summer, 1999.


Alice James Poetry Cooperative Web site,∼ajb (March 15, 1999), commentary on The Way Out.