Lauren Russell

  • CAAP

My approach to the Creativities Project...

Four-page, accordion fold, letterpressed broadside of an excerpt from Descent
Jordan Dunn, Oxeye Press 

I am Assistant Director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP), which is concerned with a practice-based poetics, where creating is a way of working through questions to arrive at new ideas. This is also a useful way of thinking about my practice as a poet and worker in hybrid forms. As a maker of poems, I believe in following what the poem wants, engaging in wide-ranging experimentation with language across genre, form, medium, sound, and space. Sometimes this means working in three-dimensional structures. Or ceding the page entirely and recording only audio. Or taking voice lessons so that I may better use the possibilities of breath. I recently completed the manuscript of my second book, Descent. The project began when I acquired a copy of the diary of my great-great-grandfather, Robert Wallace Hubert, who was Captain in the Confederate Army. After the end of the Civil War, he returned to East Texas and fathered children by three of his former slaves, who were also sisters. As I transcribed the 225-page diary, I became interested in its omissions and determined to write into the space of what is missing. I also wanted to imagine the lives and voices of my great-great-grandmother Peggy and her sisters, black women who have been silenced by history. As I have said in many statements, the result is at once “an investigation, a reclamation, and an instance of making history as a creative act.” In Descent as in all my work as a poet experimentalist, I care about creativity less as a mode of production than as a site of discovery through risk.

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