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
Descent is a winner of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards and will be out from Tarpaulin Sky Press in the spring of 2020!
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 Rail, Hyperallergic, and Scarlet, and in print in Cream City Review and a limited-edition broadside from Oxeye Press.
- "Lauren Russell on Joanna Fuhrman" for NaPo 30/30/30, The Operating System
- Review of Sabrina Orah Mark's Wild Milk, Georgia Review
- "Open Letter from Our Writer in Residence: Dear Sliver-Haired Woman on the Back Patio of the Lesbian Bar Called Mothers & Daughters," Passa Porta International House of Literature magazine
- "The Right to Time and Space," Millay Colony for the Arts blog
- "Free Is Not a Negro Doused in White," a review of Charif Shanahan's Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing, Center for African American Poetry and Poetics blog
- "Inside the Bubble or of the Bubble," a review of Joanna Fuhrman's The Year of Yellow Butterflies, Boog City
- "Some Other Kind of Way to Be Alive," an interview with Dana Ward, Hot Metal Bridge
- "Unraveling the Grand Cliche," a review of Yona Harvey's Hemming the Water, Aster(ix) Journal
- "Bordering on Madness," a review of Bhanu Kapil's Schizophrene, Jacket2
- "Song of the Week, 'Diamonds and Rust' by Joan Baez," Coldfront
- Review of Barbara Henning's Looking Up Harryette Mullen, The Volta
- Review of Camille Roy's Sherwood Forest, The Volta
- Review of Dana Ward's This Can't Be Life, The Poetry Project Newsletter
- "Music Without Full Instrumentation," an interview with Terrance Hayes, Hot Metal Bridge
- Review of Jamey Jones' Blue Rain Morning, The Poetry Project Newsletter
- "The City Has No Memory of You," a review of Kostas Anagnopoulos's Moving Blanket, Harp & Altar
- Review of Joanna Fuhrman's Pageant, Scapegoat Review
- Report on Joanna Fuhrman and John Koethe's reading, The Poetry Project webiste
- "Are We Not Obsidian?" in Sampsonia Way
- Ashbery Erasures contribution, DIAGRAM
- Selections from Descent, The Tiny
- Excerpt from Descent, Tarpaulin Sky
- "Between a Dragonfly & an Osprey," Sink Review (12-sided die/ sonnet crown with audio, interactive digital die, and printable die template)
- Excerpt from Descent, Scarlet (Jaded Ibis Press)
- poem from Descent, Academy of American Poets poem-a-day (includes audio)
- "Dream-Clung, Gone," New York Times Magazine
- "Bilged on Her Anchor," ythm (audio only)
- "From the Horns," Spark & Echo
- "I Keep Thinking I Want to Get Married When What I Mean Is Safety," Spiral Orb
- "11-9-16," Tarpaulin Sky
- Excerpt from Descent, Hyperallergic
- Excerpt from Descent, The Brooklyn Rail
- "Unit," Cricket Online Review
- "The Wind Is Rising," boundary 2
- "_______ than Cake," EK*PHRA*SIS
- Selections from What's Hanging on the Hush, Tarpaulin Sky
- "Begotten, Not Made" and "Of Mice and Monsters," Better (includes video)
- Four Poems, Packingtown Review
- "Hunt for the Unicorn," Lemon Hound
- Seven poems, The Brooklyn Rail
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.
- Introduction for Ross Gay at City of Asylum Pittsburgh's Alphabet City, co-presented by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh, February 15, 2019
- Introduction for Saretta Morgan at City of Asylum Pittsburgh's Alphabet City, co-presented by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh, February 15, 2019
- Introduction for Rickey Laurentiis at the University of Pittsburgh, hosted by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, January 24, 2019
- Introduction for Jonah Mixon-Webster at the University of Pittsburgh, October 10, 2018, and Boom Concepts, October 11, 2018, co-presented by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics and the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project
- Introduction for Cornelius Eady at the Cave Canem Faculty Reading, University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, June 12, 2017
- Introduction for Sites of Memory, a Language for Grieving, featuring M. NourbeSe Philip, Sonya Posmentier, an Ibrahima Seck, presented by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh, April 5, 2017
- Introduction for Dawn Lundy Martin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for the Felix Reading Series, April 20, 2016
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.