Lauren Russell Wins 2021 Anna Rabinowitz Award

April 14, 2021

RCAH Center for Poetry director Lauren Russell has won the 2021 Anna Rabinowitz Award for her book Descent (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2020).

Announced today by the Poetry Society of America, the Anna Rabinowitz Prize is awarded for venturesome, interdisciplinary work made in the previous year and combining poetry and any other art or discipline.

"There was one project, however, where at the end I had a small weep," writes judge Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, "and this was Lauren Russell’s Descent, this cycle’s winnerAs '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. By focusing on these 'afterlives of property' (Sharpe), Russell bathes light onto her ancestors, the Black mistresses who were recorded as property and mothers of mix-raced children and attempts to imagine their lives independent of those who enslaved them. That the archive is at once richly full and empty tugs its way into the author’s present; a present marred by contemporary anti-Blackness, internal & external racism, and a palpable exhaustion and social aloneness that emerges from the confusing tethers and entanglements with such history. It is a project of personal historical documentation that has resonances for many in this country whose Black ancestry comes from the enslavement of Black people. 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.'"





View the full announcement here.