What's Hanging on the Hush, named one of Entropy's best poetry collections of 2017


Russell debuts with a collection of sardonic splendor, subversive enlightenment, and remarkable observation about mental illness, ignorance, and the minute interactions that reveal the subtleties of human nature. --Publishers Weekly, 2017


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    Publishers Weekly starred review

    Review in Anomoly

    Review in The Kenyon Review

    Review in Yemassee

    Review in Pittsburgh City Paper

    Review in The Poetry Project Newsletter

    Review in Rob McLennan's Blog



Available from Small Press Distribution, Amazon--or ask your local independent bookstore to order it!




Descent is a winner of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards and will be out from Tarpaulin Sky Press in the spring of 2020!


Preorder here.


In 2013, Lauren acquired a copy of her great-great-grandfather's diary. Robert Wallace Hubert was a Captain in Hood's Texas Brigade in the Confederate army. After his return from the Civil War, he fathered twenty children by three of his former slaves, who were also sisters. One of those children was the poet's great-grandmother.

As she transcribed the 225-page diary, Lauren became interested in its omissions and determined to write into the space of what is missing. The result is Descent, a book-length reckoning with this part of her family's history. In an effort to write into and through silences, she wound her way through much peripheral research, but since much of what she knows comes to her via Hubert himself--his diary, his military records, even his grades--she also wants to give a voice to her great-great-grandmother Peggy Hubert and her sisters, black women who have been silenced by history. Descent is a hybrid work of verse, prose, images, documents, traditional and innovative forms. The range of approaches underscores the impossibility of ever really knowing or containing history within a single narrative. Descent is at once an investigation, a reclamation, and an insistence on making history as a creative act.

Excerpts from the work can be viewed online at the Academy of American Poets' poem-a-day, The Brooklyn RailHyperallergic, and Scarlet, and in print in Cream City Review and a limited-edition broadside from Oxeye Press.


  • from Descent, Oxeye Press. Four-panel foldout limited-edition broadside, available from Oxeye Press.
  • "Hunt for the Unicorn," Boog Literature. Four-page pamphlet, available as a PDF.
  • Dream-Clung, Gone, Brooklyn Arts Press. Chapbook, available from SPD, Amazon, and Brooklyn Arts Press.





Collaboration with visual artist and scholar Sarah Stefana Smith

Following completion of the manuscript Descent, which comes out from Tarpaulin Sky in 2020, Lauren is collaborating on an installation with the visual artist and scholar Sarah Stefana Smith.


Follow this process here.

Lauren's Interviews and Author Q&A's


Megan Milks and Lauren Russell read at Brown University's John Hay Library on October 28, 2019:



Soham Patel and Lauren Russell read at Carthage College on October 18, 2018:


Lauren Russell reads at Four Pairs, Civic Center Studios in Los Angeles, September 14, 2018:


Lauren reads the opening poem from Descent:

A poet with a GED long before she became a poet with an MFA, Lauren has always believed that poetry is for everyone. With a pedagogy that emphasizes creative process, play, and possibility, she is passionate about facilitating generative writing workshops in a variety of community settings. She is excited to be one of the organizers and instructors of the new Poetry Partnership of Pittsburgh workshop series, a collaborative project of the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project and the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. This 12-session workshop series for Black and Brown poets begins in late January 2020. Apply here through December 15th.

Lauren frequently teaches on the behavioral health unit of Pittsburgh's VA hospital in Oakland and has led workshops through Pittsburgh's City of Asylum, Madison's ArtWrite Collective, and the Madison Public Library. For two years she served as a writing mentor in PEN American Center's Prison Writing Mentorship Program.

Lauren regularly leads the Studio in African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh--an innovative course in interdisciplinary making for advanced undergraduates. At the University of Pittsburgh, she has also taught Readings in Contemporary Poetry: A Language for Grieving; Introduction to Poetry Writing: Process and Play; and (once upon a time) Seminar in Composition. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she taught Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Workshop.



Lauren is Assistant Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) at the University of Pittsburgh. Founded in 2016 by poets Dawn Lundy Martin, Terrance Hayes, and Yona Harvey, CAAPP is a creative think tank for African American and African diasporic poetries and poetics. The Center's mission is to highlight, promote, and share the work of African American and African diasporic poets and to pollinate cross-disciplinary collaboration and conversation. The Center is concerned with a practice-based poetics, where creating is a way of working through questions to arrive at new ideas. Collaboration, then, the process of creating in partnership, in community, is an expression of the practice of poetics at its most dynamic. The spirit of cultural collaboration and conversation is at the core of CAAPP's philosophy, programming, and aspirations.