World'd Too Much: The Selected Poetry of Russell Atkins
Author: Russell Atkins
Editors: Kevin Prufer and Robert E. McDonough
Publisher: CSU Poetry Center (2019)
Russell Atkins is a poet, playwright, composer, and editor from Cleveland. In 2017 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cleveland Arts Prize at age 91. In 1950 he co-founded Free Lance, the Black avant-garde publishing house and literary journal, where his essay on the theory of psychovisualism first appeared. Atkins’s only full-length collection of poetry, Here In The, was published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center in 1975 and his chapbooks include A Podium Presentation (1960), Phenomena (1961), Objects (1963), Objects 2 (1964), Heretofore (1968), The Nail, to Be Set to Music (1970), Maleficium (1971), and Whichever (1978). He also wrote verse-plays including The Abortionist and The Corpse.
Two previous books explore Atkins’s legacy—Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master (2013), edited by Kevin Prufer and Michael Dumanis, and In the Company of Russell Atkins (2016), edited by Diane Kendig and Robert E. McDonough—and the CSU Poetry Center is honored to once again contribute to his oeuvre with World’d Too Much, a comprehensive collection of Atkins’s work including 100+ poems, two poetry dramas, a manifesto, and a foreword by Janice A. Lowe.
"Russell Atkins is a phenomenon, and his writing is phenomenal. Its existence requires us to simultaneously rethink the received histories of the avant-garde and of African American literature, and to reconsider the limits of post-war poetry entirely."
"This sheaf of anti-Wordsworthian scherzi by Russell Atkins is a pharmaceutical-grade delight — 'the laughter that hags.' From the manifesto which opens this volume to the noiry/Sublime poetry dramas which close it out, Atkins’s feats and sleights prompt (in me) a Bacchantic response. It’s like when, driving eastbound thru Cleveland on the I-90, at the height of summer, you reach that point where you have to either make a sharp right turn at full speed or drive directly into the lake. For a brainsplitting second, suspended in Atkins’s poetry, I feel myself slip the binary, buck airborne & soar up over Erie’s dazzling, fatal face. This is the sheerest of stuff, and the best."
"There have yet to be made the proper comparisons between Paul Celan and Russell Atkins — in form, in syntax, in intention, and yes, in content. This book shows that Atkins remains a poet whose eye is as sharp as any blade that cut through the 20th century, and readers who have yet to experience his writing deprive themselves of actually seeing the blood that runs through us all. That blood is dark. It is necessary."