You might say that my literary work began in earnest when, as a high school freshman in Detroit, I began taking the downtown bus after school three days a week, so that I could audit an undergraduate course in modern poetry and a graduate seminar on T.S. Eliot at Wayne State University, taught by the Pulitzer-Prize-winner, W.D. Snodgrass. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, I studied writing and literature, mainly with the future U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. I was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities (and minored in History of Art); and during my undergraduate and law school years, I received the Academy of American Poets Award, the Gutterman Prize, and four Hopwood Writing Awards at Michigan. As President of the student-run Writer-in-Residence Program, I brought Jerzy Kosinski, Robert Bly, and Gary Snyder to Ann Arbor for extended series of readings, lectures, and informal talks and meetings.
At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I received a Master of the Fine Arts degree in Writing and was selected as one of two Honorary Writing Fellows in Poetry by the faculty members of the Writing Program.
My poems have been printed in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Nation, The Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Parabola, Image, five editions of the Anthology of Magazine Verse, and The Gift of Experience, The Tenth Anniversary Anthology of Atlanta Review.
In the editor’s introduction to The Gift of Experience, Daniel Veach gave particular praise to my included poem, “Noche en Espanol”: “Believe me, you havent’ lived until you’ve . . . felt passion’s silvery Spanish thunder with Lawrence Russ” (referring to my poem, “Noche en Espanol”). I have been the runner-up for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and on many occasions was a finalist for that award or for other book publication awards, including the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. I’ve also received an Artist Grant for Poetry from the (now-renamed and thoroughly-transmogrified) Connecticut Commission on the Arts.
In reviewing my chapbook of poetry, The Burning-Ground, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Louis Simpson wrote: “What Hopper did with paint, Russ does with words, making objects and situations throb with physical reality, casting a glow around them. Poems such as ‘Breaking the Keys,’ ‘Waiting’ and ‘The Wind’ speak unforgettably of ‘this drafty, beguiling world / which, whether you like it / or not, is home.'” The poet X.J. Kennedy commented: “The reader of new poetry tends to read with a monotonous drone in the inner ear. Lawrence Russ, the proprietor of a fresh, deep voice, will wake such a reader in a hurry. He’s a poet of fresh vision and compassionate mind.”
I’ve performed and lectured about poetry in a great variety of formats and places: at elementary schools and universities, art museums and galleries, churches and synagogues, parks and prisons; in urban festivals and performing arts series; on television and radio. The Connecticut Weekly section of The New York Times observed that with my “innovative poetry programs” I had “had a good deal of success in broadening the audience for poetry” in Connecticut.
In addition to poetry, I’ve published essays and reviews on poetry, film, and mythology in Parabola, OMNI, New Age Journal, The Hartford Courant and the reference work, Contemporary Poets from St. Martin’s Press. In 2001, I contributed one of the two catalogue essays for an acclaimed exhibition at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Art at the Edge of the Law. In 2010, one of my essays from Parabola was reprinted in The Inner Journey: Myth, Psyche and Spirit, which also featured essays by the likes of Joseph Campbell, P.L. Travers and Jacob Needleman.