erica lewis & rita bullwinkel reading at city lights bookstore, san francisco

dsc 3696 city lights

 City Lights in conjunction with Third Man Books present

erica lewis and Rita Bullwinkel

Sunday, April 23, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, Free Admission

"People still sing goddamn it. Praise be to erica lewis." — Sampson Starkweather, author of PAIN: The Board Game 

erica lewis reads from her new poetry collection mary wants to be a superwoman published by Third Man Books.

Rita Bullwinkel reads from her forthcoming work Belly Up (forthcoming from A Strange Object in May of 2018).

About mary wants to be a superwoman, by erica lewis:

Being of black, Native American, and white descent, poet erica lewis’ mary wants to be a superwoman recounts her family’s history, their voices within that history— especially the women on her mother’s side — and her friends’ complex history with race, gender, and class in America, what it means to live with your own history, dealing with a history that has been passed down, and how to move on from that history and its implications.

It is lewis’ take on revising the confessional while taking inspiration from her family’s own oral history. Each poem is also framed by phrases from the lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s Motown records, but the poems are not “about” the actual songs, but what is triggered when listening to or thinking about the music. What happens when you take something like a pop song and turn it in on itself, give it a different frame of reference, juxtapose the work against itself, against other pop music, and bring it into the present. mary wants to be a superwoman is the second book of the box-set trilogy; daryl hall is my boyfriend (Barrelhouse, 2015) is the first.

erica lewis lives in San Francisco where she is a fine arts publicist. In addition to mary wants to be a superwoman, books include the precipice of jupiter, camera obscura (both collaborations with artist Mark Stephen Finein), murmur in the inventory, and daryl hall is my boyfriend. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Rita Bullwinkel is the author of the story collection Belly Up (forthcoming from A Strange Object in May of 2018). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, VICE, NOON and Guernica. She is a recipient of grants and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The Drue Heinz Foundation and The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her story "Passing" was a finalist for The Conium Review's Innovative Short Fiction Prize judged by Amelia Gray. Her story “In the South the Sand Winds are Our Greatest Enemy” was selected by Joyland Magazine as one of their top five favorite stories published in 2015. Both her fiction and her translation have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. She lives in San Francisco. Visit:

Third Man Books and Records: Where your turntable’s not dead, and your page still turns. Visit

Praise for the work of erica lewis:

erica lewis' poems map the relationships among music, memory, place, and the passage of time . . . . By intertwining the public and the personal, Lewis's poems become a membrane through which pop culture permeates the most intimate experiences of selfhood — Publisher's Weekly

Every word is held accountable and must carry a sort of gravitas. For all the white space and sparse lines, what remains in the gaps after all the excess has been chipped away is striking. lewis manages to strip language down not to its bare bones, but the particulate marrow contained therein. — The Rumpus

mary wants to be a superwoman is a tapestry of woven continuums. Its images contain a methodical new naturalism where one’s past is the frontier, alternating with the brutal urgency of a witness who would save your life. erica lewis’ poems investigate the practice of identity and the sums of nonlinear biographies. Like a relaxed musician, she has the small secrets of the day at her fingertips. —Tongo Eisen-Martin, author of Someone’s Dead Already

This book made me suck my teeth and say goddamn, and yes, and thank you. This book hit me right in the ancestors, spoke to me like a sister. erica lewis is aware that time is fiction, in a way that only black women know. A collage of music and memories, language that's lived before, people we carry and people we try to forget, causes and effects, the proverb that "everything is everything." This work is both archival and built from scratch. It's a stunning altar to the past, a balm for the present, and a prayer for what will be . — Morgan Parker, author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night

This is what it sounds like when a sparrow sings Stevie Wonder, when it casts a lariat around your wits, when it wears all its shit at once, grinds and prays and dances in the overdub till the rain falls upward, being the blues itself, being gospel sung straight into the mouth of the sun, a thrall to love in three-four time. — Julian Brolaski, author of Advice for Others

Open this book and hear the needle drop on the vinyl, the soft crackling surrounding lewis' voice sing her stitched song of longing, love, & pain, heavily sampled with old soul, voiceless ghosts, and the disquieting hum of her living history and ancestors:

“we are beautiful and powerful / some things i know for sure / the story of our love / the place i want to take you / after midnight / when the train comes i will hold you / to find my way back home.”

From poem to poem, lewis lyrically invents a new music to survive the present with its “blue notes that didn't exist before”, and reckon with the past: whiskey and jewels, friendship and fucking, “old blues to cover the new blues.”

Like a dream turned inside-out, mary wants to be a superwoman is vivid, raw, and real, and will make you wanna cry and sing: “when the sky / is pink / with history / and yes / we will set sail / and smoke out / desperate fires / with these wings / and endless rain.”