Russell Atkins is a poet, playwright and composer born in Ohio in 1926, and a leader of the Black avant-garde. Raised on Cleveland's east side by three women—his mother, his grandmother, and his aunt Mae—Atkins developed a love for music early on and studied at the Cleveland School of Arts and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He was involved in African American theatre, and in 1950, he cofounded Free Lance, a Black publishing house and literary journal. Often described as a “concrete poet,” his one full-length collection, Here in The, was published in 1976. He wrote many chapbooks, and two “poems in play forms.” Atkins received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cleveland Arts Prize in 2017, at age 91. “Atkins remains a poet whose eye is as sharp as any blade that cut through the 20th century,” writes poet Jericho Brown of 2019’s World’d Too Much: The Selected Poetry of Russell Atkins. Many recent books celebrate his influence, including 2013’s Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master, which collects most of his published work.