Co-winner of the Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards
Forthcoming, Spring 2020

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. One of those children was the poet’s great-grandmother. Over several years of research, Russell would seek the words to fill the diary’s omissions. The result is Descent, a hybrid work of verse, prose, images, and documents traversing centuries as its author investigates relationships to race and legacy in this era of Confederate flag controversies, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and the ascent of a President Trump. She also imagines the voice of her great-great-grandmother, Peggy Hubert, a black woman silenced by history. Descent is at once an investigation, a reclamation, and an insistence on making history as a creative act.

Heard a whippoorwill holler this morning for the first time this spring. Heard a whippoorwill holler. All hands choking cotton. Heard a holler, a whimper. Heard a will whip her. Will heard a whip. Whip or will.


Lauren Russell is the author of What’s Hanging on the Hush (Ahsahta Press). A 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry, she has received fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, The Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, VIDA/The Home School, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and City of Asylum/Passa Porta. She is a research assistant professor and is assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.