Laura Russell

Poety as Lubricant

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “poetry as lubricant.” Sitting down to write a poem is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Some people journal or write morning pages (as in The Artist’s Way). I like to start a fresh studio day with a poem to clear the decks, leave the to-do list behind and go deep inside myself. Focus. Clarify. Meditate on words.

A few years ago I took a poetry class through Portland Community College. It was an eye opener for this former word-phobic artist. I will never think of myself as a writer or a poet, but writing words is no longer a dreaded chore. For this class assignment the teacher asked the class to look around the classroom and call out the names of three objects in the room. The first three words called out were: baseball, mascara, crayons. Now go make a poem that uses those three words. Here’s what I came up with during that class:

Urban Decay by Laura Russell

Urban Decay © Laura Russell. Click on this photo to see a larger image. Note the baby crib inside the front door.

Urban Decay

There, on the porch of the pink one,
the sun shines through the stained glass,
red like a ruby.

There, on the porch of the brown one,
a baseball left behind as they
rush into night, mascara-smeared faces
dripping like soft fruit in a juicer.

No more crayons, no more trains,
no more baby cribs. It’s all gone.

Gone. The soul of these houses
as they burn, smoke pouring from
the windows and doors.

Gone. Soon. The doors and windows
and pipes and siding, all stripped,
all sold. Gone.

How much more can we stand?
How much longer can these empty shells stand?

How can you stand to just drive by
when the future of your factory town is gone.


This poem ended up one of two in my Urban Decay artist book, which is about my home town of Saginaw, Michigan. You can see more images from this book here.

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1,000 Artist Books

I am very excited that two of my newest artist books were included in the recently released 1,000 Artists’ Books, published by Quarry books. This seemingly gargantuan effort was compiled by Sandra Salamony and Peter and Donna Thomas. I just can’t imagine wrangling that many artists and artworks. The book includes so many artists who are friends and a good number are artists we represent in the gallery.

My books included were Good Will & Salvation and Hit The Road, two of my newest titles.

Today in the studio I am struggling with structural questions for my newest book, Hit The Road II. This is the Oregon book in the series, the first covered the state of Washington. So far I’ve made three models and nothing is quite “it” yet.

My plan this afternoon is to shut off the email, silence the phone and immerse myself in the 1,000 (make that 998!) incredibly inspiring artist books featured in this treasure chest of a book that will surely be inspiration for years to come.

Take care,


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