Russell Endo was among the 19 Delaware artists who received individual fellowship grants this year from the Delaware Division of the Arts. He received a $6,000 grant under the ”emerging professional” category for poetry.
Russell Endo’s poetry begins with a spark of inspiration.
It can be a life experience, a moving work of art, or an unforgettable comment from a friend.
Whatever it is, the spark must inspire an essential idea, message, or feeling. Then the need to write poetry arises.
“It’s when I feel something that’s necessary,” said Endo, a former lawyer who lives south of Smyrna. “Poetry is to connect with other people and convey meaning.”
Through poetry, Endo has portrayed the experiences of his parents at a relocation camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the hopes and desires they held for their son.
Through poetry, Endo has captured the relationship between father and son in the symbolism of a flying kite – both the connection and the freedom to go one’s own way.
“Poetry is transformative,” Endo said. “It releases energies.”
Individual poems by Endo have appeared in well-known publications like Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and Poetry Magazine in Chicago.
Endo has yet to publish a book of his poetry, but he has hopes of doing so in the future.
artist fellowship grant
Endo was among the 19 Delaware artists who received individual fellowship grants this year from the Delaware Division of the Arts. He received a $6,000 grant under the ”emerging professional” category.
“I feel it pats me on the back that I’m a professional, not an amateur,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the Division of Arts.”
Kristin Pleasanton, the Division’s art and artist services coordinator, said that judges from throughout the country pick the grant recipients. New judges are selected each year, with one in each discipline, she said.
Endo plans to start a website for his poetry with help from the grant money. He has also planned local poetry readings in conjunction with the grant.
Becoming a poet
Endo was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he held a career in public law and received the “Liberty Bell” award from the mayor’s office. But at the same time that he was studying for the bar exam, he also started to pursue poetry.
Endo’s best friend, the late Michael Ellis, encouraged him to broaden his horizons.
“He really had a conviction I should be a poet,” Endo said.
One time, Ellis remarked that Endo’s middle name, Susumu, sounded like whispering. That comment left a lasting impression on Endo, who used it in his poem, “Susumu, My Name,” which conveys his parents’ hopes and desires for their son while they were in the relocation camp.The name Susumu means “progress” in Japanese.
A jazz pianist in New York later incorporated “Susumu, My Name” into a jazz orchestration piece that appeared on PBS.
From Philadelphia to Smyrna
Endo has lived in the Smyrna area for the past 15 years.
“It’s a wonderful place to raise kids,” he said.
Though he no longer works in the legal field, he’s been busy parenting, cooking, coaching, and driving his children to school in Wilmington. Endo also serves on the board of directors for two Quaker schools – Greene Street Friends School in Philadelphia and Wilmington Friends, where his two children are students.
“I had more time when I was a lawyer,” he said with a laugh.
Given his busy lifestyle, Endo said he often writes poetry at night, especially in the summer, when he is most free to do so.
Poetry readings planned
Russell Endo is planning to hold a poetry reading at the Dover Public Library in mid-June in conjunction with the individual artist fellowship grant he received from the Delaware Division of Arts this year.
He is also planning to hold a poetry reading for a children’s program at the Smyrna Public Library this summer.