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Lauren Russell — Descent book cover image

Descent

Co-winner of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards

In 2013, poet Lauren Russell acquired a copy of the diary of her great-great-grandfather, Robert Wallace Hubert, a Captain in the Confederate Army. After his return from the Civil War, he fathered twenty children by three of his former slaves, including the poet’s great-great-grandmother, Peggy. Through years of research, Russell would seek the words to fill the diary’s omissions and to imagine the voice of Peggy Hubert, a black woman silenced by history. The result is a hybrid work of verse, prose, images and documents that traverses centuries as the past bleeds into the present.

As “a work of biomythology”, Descent writes with, through, and against the blank interstices of the archive that act as a portal between the author’s origins in the history of both slaveholders and enslaved peoples and their present moment. These archives, and the absence of recorded names and agencies, are open only to what one imagines they could contain.   …  Part lyric memoir, poetic exploration, and archival research, Russell’s Descent enacts the wake of Christina Sharpe’s wake-work where “the past that is not past reappears, always, to rupture the present.” Lillian Yvonne Bertram, from the judge’s citation for the Poetry Society of America’s 2021 Anna Rabinowitz Award

Ahsahta Press

What's Hanging on the Hush

What’s Hanging On the Hush wrestles with concerns that range from race, gender and sexuality to loneliness, madness and grief, and nothing escapes questioning, least of all the position of the poet herself. With humor and slightly off-kilter introspection, these poems disrupt even their own speaking, frequently singing “I.” Collectively, they demonstrate the underlying restlessness of a subjectivity never quite at ease, like the solitary cats who meander across these pages and disappear only to turn up where they are least expected. Operating in a range of modes, from tight lyrics to sprawling, fragmented texts to language experiments, What’s Hanging On the Hush is a tightly constructed interrogation of construction itself. At its heart is an exploration of solitude and a feminist’s existential reckoning—the struggle of being/making in the world.

Named one of Entropy’s best poetry collections of 2017

What's Hanging on the Hush by Lauren Russell book cover image
From Descent by Lauren Russell artwork

Chapbooks & Broadsides

from DESCENT

A selection from Descent, featuring a chalk erasure by the poet. 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 SPDAmazon, and Brooklyn Arts Press.

Poems & Hybrid Work

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You can also find Lauren’s work in the fashion anthology Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear (Et Alia Press) and the poetry anthologies Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry  (Northwestern University Press), Show Us Your Papers (Main Street Rag), and Bettering American Poetry 2015 (Bettering Books).

Essays, Reviews, & Articles

  • Introduction for Marilyn Nelson,  presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University, co-sponsored by the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, April, 7, 2021 — READ
  • Introduction for Yona Harvey, presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, February 18, 2021 — READ
  • Introduction for Marcel Walker,  presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, February 18, 2021 — READ
  • Introduction for Shara McCallum,  co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and RCAH’s Lookout Gallery, November 9, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Adam Wolfond, co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and Unrestricted Interest, October 15, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Sid Ghosh, co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and Unrestricted Interest, October 15, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Imane Boukaila, co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and Unrestricted Interest, October 15, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Hannah Emerson, co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and Unrestricted Interest, October 15, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Reginald Dwayne Betts, co-presented virtually by the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU and RCAH’s Wednesday Night Live, September 23, 2020 — READ
  • Introduction for Tyrone Williams at the University of Pittsburgh, presented by the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP), co-sponsored by the Humanities Center, September 30, 2019 — READ
  • Introduction for Karen Lillis at White Whale Bookstore, August 17, 2019— READ
  • Introduction for Edmund Berrigan at White Whale Bookstore, August 17, 2019—READ
  • Introduction for Ross Gay at City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s Alphabet City, co-presented by CAAPP, February 15, 2019 — READ
  • Introduction for Saretta Morgan at City of Asylum Pittsburgh’s Alphabet City, co-presented by the CAAPP, February 15, 2019 — READ
  • Introduction for Rickey Laurentiis at the University of Pittsburgh, presented by CAAPP, January 24, 2019 — READ
  • Introduction for Jonah Mixon-Webster at the University of Pittsburgh, October 10, 2018, and Boom Concepts, October 11, 2018, co-presented by  CAAPP and the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project — READ
  • Introduction for Cornelius Eady at the Cave Canem Faculty Reading, University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, June 12, 2017 — READ
  • Introduction for Sites of Memory, a Language for Grieving, featuring M. NourbeSe Philip, Sonya Posmentier, and Ibrahima Seck, presented by CAAPP, April 5, 2017 — READ
  • Introduction for Dawn Lundy Martin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, presented by the Felix Reading Series, April 20, 2016 — READ

For Peggy: Hauntologies of Descent

Collaboration with visual artist and scholar Sarah Stefana Smith.

In collaboration, Sarah and Lauren envision using visual, spatial, and textual components to speak into spaces of omission and lack in the archive. In this collaboration we will draw on questions of what is visible and what is invisible, what is legible and what is illegible, who owns the narrative, who makes history, and how do we visualize black life and death? For Peggy: Hauntologies of Descent will exist at the intersection of our creative practices, using visual, spatial and textual components to speak into archival gaps and allow viewers to experience time as blurred, not a linear progression from the nineteenth century to the present but a space we wander across and through. Follow this process here.

Mend (2018) — Sarah Stefana Smith's series A/mends
Mend (2018) — Sarah Stefana Smith