Tag Archives: The Free Lance

Russell Atkins


Russell Atkins Checklist:
Section A: Books
Section B: Contributions to Books and Anthologies
Section C: Contributions to Periodicals

The Free Lance [coming soon]


Poet, composer, and editor Russell Atkins was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Raised by his grandmother, mother, and aunt, he developed a love of music early on and studied piano from the age of seven. Atkins went on to study music at the Cleveland School of Arts and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He was also involved in the Karamu House, considered the oldest African American theater in the United States and home to many productions of Langston Hughes’s dramatic works. In 1950, Atkins co-founded, with Adelaide Simon, the magazine Free Lance. Recognized as one of the oldest, most influential little magazines of the Black avant-garde, the journal did much to disseminate innovative writing in the African American community and influenced the New American Poetry. During these years, Atkins corresponded with many poets, including Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka).

Music is central to Atkins’s methods of writing; he once wrote of his practice, “I would ‘compose’ like a painter and write poems like a composer.” Atkins developed a mode of composition he calls “phenomenalism,” in which image and sound combinations extend the possibilities of semantic meaning through sonic play and visual forms. He is often described as a “concrete poet,” and his influential essay “A Psychovisual Perspective for ‘Musical’ Composition” elaborated on the visual aspects of musical and verse composition.


Online Resources:
Deep Cleveland: biographical data
Eclipse: facsimiles of Atkins work


References Consulted:

Griffith, E.V. SHEAF, HEARSE, COFFIN, POETRY NOW: A HISTORY
Eureka: Hearse Press, 1996

Harter, Christopher. AN AUTHOR INDEX TO LITTLE MAGAZINES OF THE MIMEOGRAPH REVOLUTION
Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2008

LOOKING FOR D.A. LEVY (RANDOM SIGHTINGS): THE D.A. LEVY BIBLIOGRAPHY, Volume 1 [1963-1966], edited by Kent Taylor and Alan Horvath
Vancouver: Kirpan Press, 2006

LOOKING FOR D.A. LEVY (RANDOM SIGHTINGS): THE D.A. LEVY BIBLIOGRAPHY, Volume 2 [1967-1968], edited by Kent Taylor and Alan Horvath
Vancouver: Kirpan Press, 2008

Lowell, James R. “A Preliminary Checklist of the Writings of d.a. levy (1942-1968)” appearing in THE SERIF, Kent State University Library Quarterly, Vol. VIII, No. 4, December, 1971