The cult section of the literary world

Russell Edson

The Master of Surreal Prose Poetry

“Edson continues to build his legend by writing sad, serious, strange, and funny prose poems. No one writes like Edson, though many prose poets wish they could and have imitated him for decades.” —Bloomsbury Review

“Edson is one of the most significant practitioners of the prose poem in contemporary American letters.” —Rain Taxi

“Edson’s prose poems are like fables. Each opens a window onto a world that is absurd and ruthless, funny and perverse. . .” —Pleiades

“The profundity of Edson’s genius has perhaps never been as fully appreciated as it should, in spite of his fervent following. But Edson is one of the few poets one would trust to survive an encounter with death itself and find ever new terrain for poetry.”—Kenyon Review



Russell Edson’s prose poems are often populated with strange and intriguing figures: a woman fights a tree, a mother serves ape; in the poem “Let Us Consider,” there’s a “farmer who makes his straw hat his sweetheart” and an “old woman who makes a floor lamp her son.” The poems are surreal and fablelike, sometimes resembling brief plays. Donald Hall has said of Edson’s poetry, “It’s fanciful, it’s even funny—but his humor carries discomfort with it, like all serious humor.” Peter Schejeldahl has pointed out that his poems have “the sustained wackiness of old Warner Brothers cartoons.”

In a 2004 Webdelsol interview with Mark Tursi, Edson said of his writing process, “My job as a writer is mainly to edit the creative rush. The dream brain is the creative engine. . . . I sit down to write with a blank page and a blank mind. Wherever the organ of reality (the brain) wants to go I follow with the blue-pencil of consciousness.”

Edson’s father, Gus, was a cartoonist and the creator of the character Art Gump. Edson studied art early in life and attended the Art Students League when he was 16. In the 1960s he began publishing poetry; since then, he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His collections of poetry include The Brain Kitchen: Writings and Woodcuts (1965), The Clam Theatre (1973), The Wounded Breakfast: Ten Poems (1985), and The Tormented Mirror (2001). He has lived for many years in Stamford, Connecticut.