Spotlight series #84 : Emmalea Russo

rob mclennan
3 min readApr 3, 2023

Curated by Canadian writer, editor and publisher rob mclennan, the “spotlight” series appears the first Monday of every month.


Poetry: utterly unreachable and always there for the taking — eerie-close. It smashes and pieces back together the technology of language. When it reaches a fever pitch, I begin. Sure, I’m interested in certain subjects which appear over and over again in my work –-moving images like cinema and stars, tricks of light and tricksters, alchemy and other ancient practices, garbage and the discarded, horror, love, disgust, sickness, deceit, bodily fluids, sainthood, east and west coasts, weird ways poetry and prose separate and mix, the high sacred and the low — but the charged air that screws and unscrews those metals is difficult to talk about. It has to do with reading and readying, staying open enough: risky, thrilling, boring, and maddening. Artaud says all writing is garbage and we live off the dead. It’s antidote and poison in one — the eternal and the rotten sun. But I’ve gotta run.


In the 1998 film adaptation of Great Expectations (1998) PARADISO PERDUTO is hidden in overgrowth. To prepare for filming, they faked this part, adding neglect, decay, mildew, moss to the supremely manicured House of John. Lace junk under the orange sun bouncing off turquoise sky which matches clean the water it hovers over and floats, flotsam. Blots it out. Off.

Roland Barthes uses the word paradise twice in A Lover’s Discourse. The first time, the word is enclosed within gate-like parentheses, protected between power and dream.

“(spontaneity: the great dream, paradise, power, delight)”

The second time,


floats outside


the lover gets expelled from

as she becomes her own demon

with language, ejects

invites images

as Legion in and in

to in(j)ure

despair, jealousy, fear,
nature’s dis
order, the endless static
of language pro-
and re-
and un-

those demons, once angels, are so experienced, stuffed (us) with knowledge after fall
ing back, a re-
and lapse
from the light a pelican flies
but no, he says
dives down
hmm? huh???
“a final convulsion
of the previous demon”
as we look toward the house
in Christina’s World and the house floats over

Parenthetical, severed
language or each other
what in the end covers
gulf coast soaks
beat-up Victorian novels
ashore, books stack up
matte and sturdy
they do not record me
i trust them implicitl
see you soon?
can we

I consult the drenched Victorians, my own sternum, dirt, sturdier objects filled with words and the demonic birds that carry them up and away before dropping them thud splash fuck off the skinniest coast

then land wordless
on the other coast
with three books
arid, drawn-on
turbulent and red
how was the ride?
who did you sit beside?
what did you look at, watch, read?
luggage spins round its matte carousel
as the sun bloats
where’ve you been?
sickened and stuffed
with word-sighs
days go by like
can’t find the time
so list the gated places
houses upkept and decayed
here’s my thigh
all of the above dunked in River Lethe
can i get a ride or?

Ardis Manor
Egdon Heath
Satis House
Ca’ d’Zan
Paradiso Perduto
repeat x3

xo — -E

Emmalea Russo’s books of poetry are G (2018), Wave Archive (2019), Confetti (2022), and Magenta (forthcoming 2023). Recent poems and essays on film and visual art have appeared in Artforum, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Compact, Granta, Gulf Coast, Los Angeles Review of Books, and SF MOMA’s Open Space. She has been a writer in residence at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in New York and 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles and a visiting critic at Parsons School of Design and The Art Institute of Cincinnati. She has taught courses on writing, theory, and visual art at various institutions including Saint Peters University, Northeastern University, GCAS, and The Home School. Her books have been reviewed in The Chicago Review, The Yale Review, Publishers Weekly, and elsewhere. Her website is