Russell Thorburn

About Russell

Poetry Manuscript Editing

Poetry Workshops

Approximate Desire

Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged

Misfit Hearts

The Whole Tree As Told To The Backyard

Poetry Home



Individual Workshops

I am your private investigator. Your work is the case. In kitchens and bagel shops, bars and libraries, I work with you on collecting evidence. I utilize a blue pen for taking out bad lines, circle what’s marvelous and can’t be changed, then discuss the nature of a mysterious metaphor over a second cup of coffee. How to get published involves more conversation. This is the stuff dreams are made of. I want to find the Maltese Falcon as much as you do. I am sensitive to every clue found in your work. Your poems find their shape in a sequence after hours of investigation; they speak of a center that resonates, an internal music well informed by language and art.

Group Workshops

After an introduction to his poetry, I offer you a prompt from a poet like Vladimir Mayakvosky. His poem of the Brooklyn Bridge presents a challenge to adult poets: how to behave like a child crossing over to Manhattan on a bicycle, or a unicycle leaving the ground to view the panorama of the Hudson River with its multitude of pennants and slow-moving barges. You have an invitation to cross the bridge as a dog on four legs, your tail waving like a banner. Your childlike wonder separates you from a dark time, the chaos of being an adult, and you shout over the railing at the pellucid jelly of the water.

Poet-in-Residence in the Schools

I conduct workshops for students of all ages—from third grade to high school. As a former poet-in-residence for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, I know how to employ physical props like leaves, twigs, and stones from a river—even a rain stick or a piano—to catch the interest of students. They sit there quietly until they hear a rain stick and are invited to dream of a rainstorm. They touch a leaf and suddenly wade through a stream in October. Their voice is the way for them to imagine the color yellow in each drifting bateau. I like using foreign words for colors: jaune and vert and bleu and rouge. I write them on the blackboard for them to mix in with ordinary ones. Their pencils are on fire.