Russ Rankin – ‘The poetry was my way to process the touring life and sift through the monotony and sameness’

Words: Miljan Milekić

Russ Rankin is a well-known name in the punk rock scene. Not only did he build a name for himself as a frontman of the legendary Good Riddance, and the very respected Only Crime, but he also proved himself as a singer-songwriter, especially after the last year’s solo album ‘Come Together, Fall Apart.’ Now, he is entering a new territory, with his first poetry book, ‘Pure Few Hearts,’ released in March via Thera Books. After catching up with him following Good Riddance’s latest album ‘Thoughts and Prayers,’ as well as around ‘Come Together, Fall Apart,’ it only made sense to reach out to him again for a quick chat about his poetry debut. Check it out below.

Russ Rankin / Photo: Lindsey Lutts McGuire

‘Pure Few Hearts’ has been out for a couple of months now. How happy are you with the feedback so far?
Russ: The limited feedback I have received has all been really positive.

The poems in ‘Pure Few Hearts’ were written in the span of 8 years, between 1998 and 2006. What made you focus on that particular period, for this book, and how come you’re only now sharing it with the world, almost 17 years since the last poem was written?
Russ: I was primarily writing during the years my band was touring a lot. We stopped playing altogether in 2007, and resumed again, though in a much more limited capacity, in 2012. I didn’t share my poems with anybody until our friend Ted Shank asked to see some of them while we were discussing his poetry book a couple of years ago.

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Did you continue to write after 2006, and do you think we might see you prepare another book in the future?
Russ: I haven’t written much poetry, but, if there’s some excitement around this book, it would be fun to pick it up again, especially considering how much I have learned about writing over the last year or so.

When I first picked up the book, I was a bit surprised. For some reason, I was expecting to find something more in line with your music. Instead, many of the poems are personal, emotional, or based on simple, everyday things. How different was the approach in writing these, compared to writing lyrics to any of the bands, or even your solo music?
Russ: The poetry was my way to process the touring life. Finding ways to sift through the monotony and sameness, to process the strained relations with my comrades, as well as the toll touring took on my various romantic endeavors.
It was never meant to be political.

Some of the poems in ‘Pure Few Hearts’ are touching on topics such as songwriting, life on the road, being away from home, and many other experiences of someone in a punk rock band touring the world. In some ways, it was almost like reading a diary. How important was it for you to express some of those thoughts in a form you would not be able to express with the music itself?
Russ: I found it calming to write in this form. I also kept journals during this same period, but I enjoyed the pace of poetry and the challenge of trying to filter the mundane through my own imagination and psychosis.

For the book release, you teamed up with Thera Books, who the outside seems like a very dedicated group that doesn’t focus on numbers but rather gives every book the attention it deserves. What does working with them look like from your perspective, and how did you decide to go with them?
Russ: Thera Books was the only company interested in publishing me, so it wasn’t like I had a lot of choices. So far, they have been amazing to work with, and have made this first experience really easy for me.

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Do you have any plans of taking ‘Pure Few Hearts’ on the road? If not the full book tour, can we expect to see you do any signing events or public readings in the future?
Russ: I did my first reading a few weeks ago, along with three other Thera writers, and it was a lot of fun. I would love to do more stuff like that in the future.

So, as someone who just moved to Saskatoon a few months ago, I especially love ‘Saskatchewan,’ and the way it depicts the Winter time around here. But speaking of it, do you think we see you in this part of Canada anytime soon? During the Summer months, of course!
Russ: We love playing in Western Canada. We’ll see when we can get back out there.

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