Lauren Russell


Lauren Russell, an assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, is a poet and writer in hybrid forms. She is the author of Descent (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2020) and What’s Hanging on the Hush (Ahsahta Press, 2017). A 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry, she has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and VIDA/the Home School, and residencies from the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and City of Asylum/Passa Porta. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, The Brooklyn RailDIAGRAM, and the anthologies Bettering American Poetry 2015 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, among others. 


Lauren’s work often resists traditional genre divisions and engages in a continuous process of reimagining what a poem can be and do. Her second book, Descent, began in 2013 when she acquired a copy of the diary of her great-great-grandfather, Robert Wallace Hubert, who was a Captain in the Confederate Army. After the end of the Civil War, he fathered children by three of his former slaves, including Lauren’s great-great-grandmother, Peggy Hubert. As she transcribed the 225-page diary, Lauren became interested in its omissions and decided to write into the gaps. She also wanted to imagine the voice of her great-great-grandmother Peggy, a Black woman silenced by history. The book is at once “an investigation, a reclamation, and an instance of making history as a creative act.” In Descent as in all her work as a poet experimentalist, Lauren believes in writing as a site of discovery through risk.


Lauren comes to MSU from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) and a research assistant professor in the Department of English from 2016 to 2020. A poet with a GED long before she became a poet with an MFA, Lauren has always believed that poetry is for everyone. Through a partnership between Pitt and the VA Healthcare system, she and MFA students under her supervision regularly taught on a locked inpatient behavioral health unit at the VA’s Pittsburgh hospital. She was also a co-organizer and co-facilitator of the Poetry Partnership of Pittsburgh spring 2020 workshop series for Black and Brown poets, a collaboration of CAAPP and the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project. 

Lauren was delighted to join RCAH and the Center for Poetry in the fall of 2020.

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