This year has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times for Cleveland poet Russell Atkins. The best is the new book on him by Pleiades Press, Russell Atkins: On the Life and Work of an American Master, ed. by former Clevelander Kevin Prufer and Michael Dumanis. Please consider ordering a copy from your favorite independent bookstore.
The worst was the forcible removal of Russell to a nursing home, without allowing him to take his possessions. Four of us have been visiting and assisting him in recovering from all this.
He has an 88th birthday coming up next week which we will be celebrating with his favorite cake on Thursday, Feb. 27th. If anyone would like to attend, please email Diane Kendig or Bob McDonough for the time and locale and so we have enough cake. If you can't attend but would like to wish him well, please send a card to
The Grande Pavilions
24613 Broadway Avenue
Oakwood Village, OH 44146
Web page: http://dianekendig.com/
Blog, Home Again: http://dianekendig.blogspot.com/
"This is an astounding tribute to one of the most innovative American artists, Russell Atkins, by a small, independent publisher, Pleiades Press. Prufer, a professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston , and Dumanis, a professor at Bennington College, put together this labor of love, paying homage to Atkins, this peerless yet largely unknown poet, composer, dramatist, theorist, and editor."
"Russell Atkins is an American original, representative of an often African-American or increasingly Hispanic American working class side of American culture and society which is at an ever increasing rate being dropped by the wayside. This is the down and out, every day underbelly of American cities. As Sean Singer argues, for Atkins “the urban environment is a vital source for [Atkins’] imagination. Urban life, and specifically black urban life, is important to his work. Cleveland, and the cultural imagination of Cleveland, are ‘main characters’ in most of Atkins’ work.” His writings are of a quirky, odd sort and there’s no easy “fit” for them, since there’s often nothing very fashionable happening in them—not now and not at the time he was writing. Born and raised in Cleveland, he’s never left. The majority of his published books come from small presses, with the possible exception of Paul Bremen’s Heritage Series published out of London in the 60s. In 1976, Cleveland State University brought out the largest selection of his poems entitled Here In The. There has been little attention given his work on any significant public level since. The inclusion of Russell Atkins’ work in the Unsung Masters series by Pleiades Press seems destined. He’s exactly of the sort whose work and life this project is meant to serve."
--Patrick James Dunagan
- Rediscovering Russell Atkins, from Belt Magazine