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Russell Thorburn

Russell Thorburn

Russell Thorburn was born in Birmingham, Michigan. Such journals as Third Coast, Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, and The Quarterly have published his work. He has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1998), the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, ArtServe, and PEN/American. He has taught poetry to prison inmates, and worked with emotionally impaired students. He lives in Marquette, Michigan.

Also by Russell Thorburn


Approximate Desire

Approximate DesireApproximate Desire

$12.00 paper | 70 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-932826-80-0
Publication Date: Oct. 1999
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An Inland Seas Poetry Book

"The achievement of Approximate Desire is more than considerable; it is indispensable. These are poems of deep compassion and remarkable vision, and I was both haunted and sobered by the ways in which sorrow finds its equivalent in love, and vice versa. An original and fully engaging debut collection of the first order."
        —Jack Driscoll

"Ty Cobb and Apollinaire fight it out on the basepaths––Thorburn's is an utterly solid use of baseball in poetry, he's devout about the Eurydicean grace of the game––baseball is a game about losing––and there's no awful tongue in cheek cuteness. Baseball is an art and its practitioners are smart peers to surrealist poets and famous painters. But in the best poem in the book, it's a poet alone who works it out with a city all around him, and loses, and loses his life into song."
        —Robert Kelly

"Russell Thorburn's remarkable visionary poems are an invitation to play life-and-death baseball with Ty Cobb and the Oaxaca Nine or maybe walk hand-in-hand with such luminaries as Einstein, Apollinaire, and Cocteau. Transcending time and space, these poems take my breath away. They emerge from the imagination and heart––astonishing in their brilliance, impeccable in their leaps of language, and utterly devastating in their inner truth."
        —Judith Minty

"The poems in Russell Thorburn's Approximate Desire are full of lush precision and gentle grace. These poems travel far in place and time, displaying an astonishing range while grounding themselves in subtle, impressionistic landscapes. Cocteau, Apollinaire, Einstein, Ty Cobb––you never know who's going to show up, but it's clear that everyone is comfortable here on these pages. I love the quiet dignity of these poems. When I read this book, I felt someone's hand over my heart."
        —Jim Daniels


Apollinaire's Hat

His hat a drunken boat. Under it
he drowned in words.
Anybody who saw him on the Boulevard
first greeted his hat.

He hid the Eiffel Tower there.
Sometimes both of Picasso’s hands
sketching the way a female body
becomes tragic architecture.

He was forced to spend nights writing
bad verse for money. His jailer
a hungry stomach. When he made love,
he wore the bowler.

That chamber where gods
advised him on women,
a pool in which he could hear
Time dripping.

How that hat grew in its own breath,
as if it were thinking along with him
about the body beneath it, waiting
for something to happen to change its life.

How it held the world in balance,
fit neatly over his head as it shaded
the view of the Luxembourg Gardens
and a whore with skinny legs.

His hat became an orator for his times;
if someone said hearts were made of stone,
he’d laugh, say his was pulled down tight
around his ears, melted like honey
upon his brow with its eternal smile.