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Transcript: Poems on Air, Episode 73 - Lauren Russell

The following transcript is provided for accessibility only. Layout, formatting, and typography of poems may differ from the original text. We recommend referring to the original, published works when possible to experience the poems as intended by their authors.

[Music intro]

LYNNE THOMPSON: Hello! My name is Lynne Thompson, Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles and I’m so happy to welcome listeners to this installment of Poems on Air, a podcast supported by the Los Angeles Public Library. Every week, I’ll present the work of poets I admire, poets who you should know, and poets who have made a substantial and inimitable contribution to the art and craft of poetry.

LYNNE THOMPSON: Avid readers of poetry are likely familiar with Nicole Sealy’s—a much admired poet in her own right—challenge that readers “read books by marginalized voices and buy their books from local independent bookstores”. In support of this challenge, and for the next two episodes, I’ll be highlighting two of these voices. First up, Lauren Russell, who served as the assistant director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. In the fall of 2020, she joined the faculty of Michigan State University as an assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Russell describes herself as a poet as well as a write run hybrid forms. Her most recent poetry collection is Descent.

LYNNE THOMPSON: Today’s poem is "Peggy/ An Inventory" by Lauren Russell.

Peggy/ An Inventory

She has a recipe for cornbread and one for curing hog cholera
and another for keeping quiet and another for children born
too close together. She has a cast iron skillet and a pale blue
bandanna and a steel thimble she slips over her finger when
she works up a quilt, a shirt, a song. She has a wash pot and
a boiling stick and a fear of haunts and a way of looking twice
over her shoulder. She has an apron she rips into rages in one
smooth motion and a song for every kind of weather but
days when the sun will not shine out. She has a butcher knife
and a paring knife, a knife for extracting chiggers, a knife for
scraping hogs, and a knife she hides under her bed before 
births to soften the pain. She has a deep belly groan like the
HE&WT Railway grinding toward Houston, and even her
lullabies crack like kindling. No one will own to hearing her
cry, but her laugh is the crash of breaking glass—sharp, high,
and exactingly brief.

LYNNE THOMPSON: The Los Angeles Poet Laureate was created as a joint program between the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Los Angeles Public Library and this podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening!

[Music outro]

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  • DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding. Transcript provided by the author.