RCWS Creative Writing

CW Forum Executive Committee Candidate Statement

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    Lauren Russell

    Dear Colleagues,

    I am honored to be nominated for the Creative Writing Forum Executive Committee. As I said in an interview once, I was a poet with a GED long before I was a poet with an MFA–and like many creative writers who have found a kind of home in academia, it is sometimes an uneasy one. Five years ago, the first executive committee of the Creative Writing Forum wrote, “We are interested in creating a space where scholars, creative writers, critics, and writer-critics can discuss and debate the role of creative writing in the 21st century.” I find myself an MLA convert because I do not always find these kinds of rigorous debates occurring at conferences like AWP, and if we do not periodically stop to consider what we are doing and why we are doing it, the poet with an MFA will begin to forget the poet with a GED who imagined (or could never imagine) her way here in the first place.

    If elected, I would hope to further conversations around practices and pedagogies that can expand possibilities of thinking and creating for everyone, building on my experience as assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. To this end, I am committed to furthering community-based partnerships and pedagogies that not only engage off-campus communities but center them. As a neurodivergent poet, teacher, and learner, I am also interested in exploring how the creative writing classroom may better engage all students, recognizing that they arrive not only with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences but also with a diversity of minds. Chris Martin’s several essays on teaching and learning from autistic poets are laying a foundation for these conversations.

    On the Elephant Zoologists panel at the MLA conference in Chicago earlier this year, I ended my statement by asking, “If we are operating with the understanding that a poet is somebody free and a poet is somebody at home [June Jordan’s terms from “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America”], then my question is: How do poets protect and nurture that home, that freedom, for both our students and ourselves, from within academia, historically a bastion of exclusion?” These are the kinds of questions I would like to continue to ask—and discuss and encourage and debate and reimagine—if elected to the creative writing forum executive committee.



    Lauren Russell

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