Russell Thorburn


Russell Thorburn lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his son and wife. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, he teaches at Northern Michigan University and is an independent manuscript editor and consultant whose clients have published numerous books with national presses in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the more recent titles are The Wrong Cat by Lorna Crozier, Random House of Canada, and In the Bone Cracks of the Walls by Tina Biello, Leaf Press. He has an intuitive sense of finding the right sequence and locating an arresting title from an image or phrase to complete the shape of the book. Thorburn’s own poetry can be found in the following books: Approximate Desire, New Issues Poetry & Prose, Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged, Marick Press, The Drunken Piano, March Street Press, The Whole Tree as Told to the Backyard, and Misfit Hearts, Rocky Shore Books.

Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged is Thorburn’s personal odyssey of crossing the half­century mark, a journey chronicled and held open to us readers as if we are watching a not­so foreign film. John Rybicki writes: “I’m wanting to leave these poems by Russell Thorburn on church pews and park benches. I’m wanting to rush up to strangers on the street, the grocery store clerk, and to offer this collection as currency, to beg the ranting world one listener at a time to sit here and be ruined alive by these fine poems.”

His radio play, Happy Birthday James Joyce, was aired four times on a National Radio affiliate, and was performed on Off-­Off-­Broadway. As Mojave National Preserve artist-­in-­residence with his son, he fit poems with photographs shot there during a two-­week period, resulting in the glossy page art book Many Names Have Never Been Spoken Here. His folk­rock band, Radio On, creates imaginary landscapes built around word and sound, using electric guitars, flute and piano to heighten poetry. They also explore original songs that pay tribute to the late guitarist, John Renbourn, and the legendary drummer, Levon Helm. They are currently working on a CD.

Salt and Blood is Thorburn’s noir; its prose style is described as somewhere between Cormac McCarthy and Raymond Chandler, hard­hitting language to the gut, like music and poetry on the edge of murder and mayhem in a world populated by Mexican detectives, an endless string of corpses, who speak from the grave, and all the while the terrible soul of the desert is never far away. It will be published by Marick Press—and Somewhere We’ll Leave the World, his new book of poetry, by Wayne State University Press, in their Made in Michigan Series. Two years ago Thorburn was voted the first poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula.