Descent
by Lauren Russell

Hybrid / Poetry / Memoir.
African-American Studies. Women’s Studies. LGBTQIA Studies.
Paperback. 120 pp. June 2020.
ISBN:9781939460219
Cover art by Sarah Stefana Smith.

$18 in stores. $15 w/free U.S. shipping, direct from TS Press.

Descent
by Lauren Russell

Hybrid / Poetry / Memoir.
African-American Studies. Women’s Studies. LGBTQIA Studies.
Paperback. 120 pp. June 2020.
ISBN:9781939460219
Cover art by Sarah Stefana Smith.

$18 in stores. $15 w/free U.S. shipping, direct from TS Press.

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. Through several years of research, Russell would seek the words to fill the diary’s omissions and to imagine the voice of her great-great-grandmother, 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.

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. Through several years of research, Russell would seek the words to fill the diary’s omissions and to imagine the voice of her great-great-grandmother, 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.

“How can one fill in the gaps of a family history? The history that resists the dry ink of records, newspapers, headstones, and maybe even escapes the juice of oral history and diaries. How can we imagine the complexity of an ancestor’s struggle and paradoxes? In Descent, the very talented poet Lauren Russell shows us how to write what we do not know; to give with grace and dignity, humanity to names on the family tree. Descent is a search for truths felt in one’s bones.” (BRENDA COULTAS) “‘I am a poet. I am not a historian.’ Thus Lauren Russell’s biomythographic (say: “Lorde”) reckoning with the past passes into a gap that’s the missing words of a newly freedwoman, a Pittsburgh bed now absent a lover, a dug up grave. What Russell makes of what she finds missing is her Descent, an audacious, acid, lyrical re-membering that asks, what do we demand of the past, and what to do with its refusal? Russell’s deep archive would not answer her back. With Descent, however, she speaks to us. Sit all the way down and listen up.” (DOUGLAS KEARNEY) “In Descent, Lauren Russell’s stellar new book-length poem, stories, told by family, archives, history itself, create a chorus to portray a rich, Black American ancestral record. Sifting nimbly through all manner of documentation and employing form in revelatory ways, Russell’s poems are as much ascent—into a present shaped by the past—as descent from America’s true heroic figures.” (JOHN KEENE)

“How can one fill in the gaps of a family history? The history that resists the dry ink of records, newspapers, headstones, and maybe even escapes the juice of oral history and diaries. How can we imagine the complexity of an ancestor’s struggle and paradoxes? In Descent, the very talented poet Lauren Russell shows us how to write what we do not know; to give with grace and dignity, humanity to names on the family tree. Descent is a search for truths felt in one’s bones.” (BRENDA COULTAS) “‘I am a poet. I am not a historian.’ Thus Lauren Russell’s biomythographic (say: “Lorde”) reckoning with the past passes into a gap that’s the missing words of a newly freedwoman, a Pittsburgh bed now absent a lover, a dug up grave. What Russell makes of what she finds missing is her Descent, an audacious, acid, lyrical re-membering that asks, what do we demand of the past, and what to do with its refusal? Russell’s deep archive would not answer her back. With Descent, however, she speaks to us. Sit all the way down and listen up.” (DOUGLAS KEARNEY) “In Descent, Lauren Russell’s stellar new book-length poem, stories, told by family, archives, history itself, create a chorus to portray a rich, Black American ancestral record. Sifting nimbly through all manner of documentation and employing form in revelatory ways, Russell’s poems are as much ascent—into a present shaped by the past—as descent from America’s true heroic figures.” (JOHN KEENE)

About the Author

Lauren Russell 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, 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, boundary 2, The Brooklyn Rail, Cream City Review, and the anthologies Bettering American Poetry 2015 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, among others. She is a research assistant professor in English and is assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.

About the Author

Lauren Russell 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, 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, boundary 2, The Brooklyn Rail, Cream City Review, and the anthologies Bettering American Poetry 2015 and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry, among others. She is a research assistant professor in English and is assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh.

Readings
&
Events

(reverse chronology)

16 December 2020
7-8:30pm Eastern
Hudson Valley Writers Center
Online Reading
featuring Lynn Emanuel, Lucia LoTempio, and Lauren Russell

9 December 2020
1-3pm Eastern
Brooklyn Rail
(online) Radical Poetry Reading for The Brooklyn Rail‘s “New Social Environment”
featuring Lauren Russell

29 November 2020
3pm Eastern
Cultivating Voices New Books Showcase
Jan Beatty, Don Krieger, and Lauren Russell

20 November 2020
7-8:30pm Eastern
White Whale Bookstore (online)
Poetry Reading featuring Lauren Russell, Emily Mohn-Slate, Sharon Fagan McDermott, and Bob Walicki

28 October 2020
Wisconsin Book Festival
online poetry reading
featuring Traci Brimhall and Lauren Russell

26 August 2020: Online
Sundress Virtual Reading Series
Ft. Lauren Russell, Shawnte Orion, and JM Wong

13 August 2020: Online
Brooklyn Rail reading
Reserve a spot here

25 June 2020: Online
VCCA Fireplace Series
Ft. Lauren Russell and musician Caroline Keys
Hosted by Christina Chiu
Facebook Live and YouTube

12 June 2020: Online
Virtual Book Launch for Descent
7pm Eastern
Hosted by White Whale Bookstore

7 March 2020: San Antonio, TX
AWP 2020 off-site Reading
6-10pm @ La Villita Cafe
418 Villita St

Descent in the Media

The Rumpus reviews Lauren Russell’s Descent

"Descent is a book about identity, about family—and a book about Black women and their erasure. How they were and in some ways continue to be erased from the historical record, from positions of power. From control over their own bodies. From what can be considered beautiful or joyful." -- Jesi Buell, The Rumpus

Lauren Russell’s Descent reviewed at Full Stop

"Descent is as complex and compelling as our most storied epics, historical and contemporary, and it reflects hybrid writing at its very best. I am reminded of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dicteé, another book that is so moving it’s hard to keep reading and also hard to put down." --Anna Vitale, Full Stop

Winners | 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards: Hunting Season, by Julia Brennan; Womonster, by Olivia Cronk; Body of Empire, by Mariko Nagai; and Descent, by Lauren Russell.

The Shortlist | 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards

Three weeks ago we published the Longlist for the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards. Today we are delighted to announce the Shortlist. Not content with mere lists, however, we are also featuring excerpts from shortlisted manuscripts...

Descent in the Media

The Rumpus reviews Lauren Russell’s Descent

"Descent is a book about identity, about family—and a book about Black women and their erasure. How they were and in some ways continue to be erased from the historical record, from positions of power. From control over their own bodies. From what can be considered beautiful or joyful." -- Jesi Buell, The Rumpus

Lauren Russell’s Descent reviewed at Full Stop

"Descent is as complex and compelling as our most storied epics, historical and contemporary, and it reflects hybrid writing at its very best. I am reminded of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dicteé, another book that is so moving it’s hard to keep reading and also hard to put down." --Anna Vitale, Full Stop

Winners | 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards

We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards: Hunting Season, by Julia Brennan; Womonster, by Olivia Cronk; Body of Empire, by Mariko Nagai; and Descent, by Lauren Russell.

The Shortlist | 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards

Three weeks ago we published the Longlist for the 2019 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards. Today we are delighted to announce the Shortlist. Not content with mere lists, however, we are also featuring excerpts from shortlisted manuscripts...

Readings
&
Events

(reverse chronology)

16 December 2020
7-8:30pm Eastern
Hudson Valley Writers Center
Online Reading
featuring Lynn Emanuel, Lucia LoTempio, and Lauren Russell

9 December 2020
1-3pm Eastern
Brooklyn Rail
(online) Radical Poetry Reading for The Brooklyn Rail‘s “New Social Environment”
featuring Lauren Russell

29 November 2020
3pm Eastern
Cultivating Voices New Books Showcase
Jan Beatty, Don Krieger, and Lauren Russell

20 November 2020
7-8:30pm Eastern
White Whale Bookstore (online)
Poetry Reading featuring Lauren Russell, Emily Mohn-Slate, Sharon Fagan McDermott, and Bob Walicki

28 October 2020
Wisconsin Book Festival
online poetry reading
featuring Traci Brimhall and Lauren Russell

26 August 2020: Online
Sundress Virtual Reading Series
Ft. Lauren Russell, Shawnte Orion, and JM Wong

13 August 2020: Online
Brooklyn Rail reading
Reserve a spot here

25 June 2020: Online
VCCA Fireplace Series
Ft. Lauren Russell and musician Caroline Keys
Hosted by Christina Chiu
Facebook Live and YouTube

12 June 2020: Online
Virtual Book Launch for Descent
7pm Eastern
Hosted by White Whale Bookstore

7 March 2020: San Antonio, TX
AWP 2020 off-site Reading
6-10pm @ La Villita Cafe
418 Villita St

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