By Lynette Esposito
Rustin Larson’s poetry volume, Pavement, is more than slim with only 14 poems but it is also more than powerful. When I read the last poem on page 33, I wanted more; it can’t be over already. I was left on the pavement struggling, visualizing and wishing I was not stuck in “nowhere.” Larson’s tight focus, innovative literary technique, and clearly defined imagery lead the reader down his many forms of pavement.
Larson provides a tight focus on the image of pavement in each of his fourteen poems as well as entitling this tome Pavement. Each poem is entitled Pavement with a number after it going from Pavement 1 to Pavement 14. This almost over focus works well here as the starkness of the multiple references and suggestions are revealed. In Pavement 1, the narrator observes a man in a bathrobe smelling of urine coming into the health shop
where he has gone for a cup of barley soup. The poetic lines are unevenly set up in length and indention which I like in the flow of this one-stanza poem. The suggestion of a health shop where one can pay to be healthy but turns someone obviously unhealthy and desperate out to the pavement serves as irony at its best especially when the clerk goes to wash her hands after touching his bathrobe.
In creating his poems, Larson uses standard literary techniques and images in innovative ways. Diane Frank, author of Canon for Bears and Ponderosa Pines comments …
Pavement breaks into new territory. Larson, for example, says in Pavement 5, The Pallbearer has a rat’s tongue. So many suggestions of what this means almost assail the reader’s imagination and visualizations of funerals he/she has attended. Just like Larson says in Pavement 4, Things we play with at home and mentions matches. The settings of funerals and home are places the reader has been and felt secure in but the images take the readers out of that “comfort” zone. While Larson uses standard stanza formats, he fiddles successfully with line length and spacing to allow his meaning and images to form a visual of stepping and sidestepping on the underlying pavement.
Another example of Larson’s use of innovative imaging is In Pavement 13. Larson says Part of you drinks sunlight. This is a life story of a Norfolk Pine with a dream and hope about life. The metaphor extends beyond the seedling to anyone who has wanted to amount to something with the exception of being an overworked accountant.
All I can say is I loved this book and I am thirsty after reading it. I want more.
Rustin Larson is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in writing. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review and others. He is the author of Wine-Dark House (Blue-Light Press 2009) and Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book Poetry Series in 2005. He has also won many prizes for his work.
You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Pavement-Rustin-Larson/dp/1421837781
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences. She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.