cover image What’s Hanging on the Hush

What’s Hanging on the Hush

Lauren Russell. Ahsahta, $18 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-934103-76-0

Russell debuts with a collection of sardonic splendor, subversive enlightenment, and remarkable observation about mental illness, ignorance, and the minute interactions that reveal the subtleties of human nature. Russell’s experimental and provocative style beautifully amalgamates traditionally non-poetic structures, arranging it all in a sort of controlled chaos. Among her checklists, definitions, brief narratives, and streams of consciousness, her metafictional pieces warrant the most praise. In “Narrative Arc” she follows a series of lines about “Derrida’s cat” with a space and a single descriptive term: “Derrida’s cat looked at Derrida naked” is labeled action, “Derrida’s cat’s retinas contracted in the light” is process, and so on. Russell challenges societal norms when her speaker asks, “Do I wear my skin like a costume or a uniform?” Similarly, she confronts how social expectations can coerce a person into a performative well-being and how ignorance can invalidate one’s emotional complexities, deeming them acts of drama or whitewashing them as homologous states that are experienced without variation among people society deems unstable. What’s most striking is her skill at deriving rich meaning from otherwise unremarkable happenstance, as when she comments on an emailed typo: “it came out ‘dsiappear,’/ the ‘i’ already shifting, a loose hair.” Russell’s wry and lush poetics open up into an encyclopedia of social critique and whimsical disarray. (Oct.)