rustin larson

Library Rain by Rustin Larson

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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Rustin Larson’s poetry volume, Library Rain, has 50 pages of poems that vary in length, style and subject matter. Many of the poems have been previously published in a wide variety of literary journals and other publications.   This volume has a good mix of Larson’s tightly focused and innovative images and literary skill.
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Larson, in his poem Man of The Future on pages four and five and first published in Saranac Review, focuses on a narrator who observes riders on a transit bus and gives them nicknames. One is named The Man of the Future and another is named Mrs. Rabbit. The two sit next to each other their thighs touching. Then, suddenly, they avoid each other. Larson ends this two-page seven stanza poem with:
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                                 I’m no genius. I’ve made plenty
                                 Of  mistakes.  If life gives you something,
                                 You take it, and you don’t ask any questions,
                                 And then when life takes it away
                                 Again,  then what?  There is no elegant way
                                 to put this.  If we’ve lived this far,
                                 We’ve become the future we once thought was distant.
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Life on the bus translates in figurative form, to a truth of gain and loss and time unexpectedly bringing the future to us too quickly.  Larson’s choice of place, a bus that carries people back and forth to work, also encapsulates the repetitive rhythm of a pentameter keeping time even as it moves forward.
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John Peterson of Wapsipinicon  Almanac says “Larson writes like an angel, but one who’s willing to work both sides of the street.” This can be seen in Larson’s poem Summer Vacation (The Iowa Source) on pages twenty-eight and twenty-nine. It is like many of Larson’s poems, a vignette in poetry. A young boy has his first sexual encounter with a girl and it is more fantasy than reality as others in the poem both congratulate and condemn the experience. The narrator of the poem presents the idea of someone who is there but not there as a reality check.  The following lines suggest our involvement in our own life plot.
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                              The miracle is that we each live a story
                              That really isn’t about us at all.
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The narrator comments that this is the plotline for every thing .I find this is a little on the negative side but also I hear the ring of truth to it.
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Many of Larson’s poems have this double edge to them with the common settings and place suggesting much more.  On page fifty, the poem, A Yet to Be Determined Painting, (Briar Cliff Review) has beautiful imagery but underneath the beauty, is broken machinery.
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                        Maple sees flickered down from the branches.
                       “We are replacements for butterflies,”
                        they said with their illusion of two wings.
                        They struck the boards of the deck
                        and then they just lay there broken machinery,
                        done, the pilot green, the current strong.
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These strong images encourage the reader to take a second look at nature and how it reflects on how one imagines life.
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The poems in this book are a pleasure to read and give the reader insight into the world around them. Larson’s complex inter mix of ideas and form work well throughout the book.
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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.

From the Poetry Editor

Diane March        From North of Oxford, this windy March issue blows us in two directions: backward into childhood, i.e., the past and upward into a distorted heavenly sky.

Rustin Larson’s poem, “Slap” conjures up Stanley Kunitz’s slapped check in “The Portrait,” but Larson’s metaphor literally moves us into confusion with his opening lines: “It was confusing. It’s / like getting on the wrong / bus and arriving at / the wrong school.” It’s as if childhood were a treacherous journey for the speaker, which leads the reader to his second poem, “Bats and Spiders,” where the end lines of his first stanza are “Your / mother would never have / aborted you’ says my aunt. / Things like that get me / thinking.” There is a mastery and magical craft to this poem that you will want to read and re-read, complete with…”The witch’s hand / felt in her shaggy purse for / a coin.”

Wesley Scott McMaster’s “Gypsy Blood” has Romanian blood running through this poem’s veins. Dedicated to his father, who he cried with, when the speaker, I, “watched my grandfather’s body / weak and frail / carried out to be burned / to be made into dust.”  Not traveling on a bus like in Larson’s first poem, McMaster is wearing “shoes that are worn out / soles worn thin.” Walk with him and you will feel “rain or snow”, “the shit in city streets”and you will hear the voices of his ancestors “soaked in blood…gypsy blood.”

Thaddeus Rutkowski’s mode of transportation to the past, in his poem, “Where I’m From” lists several ways of getting around as a child: “I used a bike, my feet, or skates” never making “it more than a mile or two / from my childhood home.” With mixed maternal and paternal lineage his “goal was to learn to drive. / …and blow out of there.” His next poem, is where the winds of March blow upward, even inward, as we enter, “In the Buddha’s Tooth Temple,” and “We walk into a temple in Singapore to see the relic: / a tooth of the Buddha.” Led by walking, the speaker, more like a tour guide, helps us to see inside the temple, maybe even inside the winds of time, and in arriving, “No one is in the room. / There is no crowd around the pedestal.”

As wind circles, we are blown into the cross current poems of Howie Good.  Not quite Nietzschesque as in “God is Dead,” rather possessing a drier wit and sarcasm, Good’s poem, “God Is a Joke That Nobody Gets” puns on the resurrection, in a modernistic way. “Your god” (with a lowercase “g”) “tumbles/ to the ground dead, then / gets up and dusts off his pants.” Good’s speaker reduces god into an unsympathetic human, someone like an uncaring boss, who is a lot of hot air / a wind bag, that “does a crap job intervening / in human affairs.” Believe it or not, a lot is seen and said in a minimalistic way; how ironic to condense a poem about god into only nine lines—the speaker bringing down the mighty powers of god. Good’s defying humor ensues in a “little snippet” of his squirrely poem, “Against Narrative.”

Check out this month’s issue, stay grounded, and “Beware the Ides of March.”

With much respect & admiration for these our March Madness poets,

Diane Sahms, Poetry Editor, North of Oxford

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Guidelines

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/about/

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Two Poems from Rustin Larson

corn
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Slap
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It was confusing.  It’s
like getting on the wrong
bus and arriving at the
wrong school.  It will take
a morning of frantic phone
calls for your mom to find
you.  And then you still
might get a slap.
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Well, it’s October now and I
still don’t care about baseball.
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I feel maybe someone will give
me cartoonist trouble, holding
my life together with aspirin
and duct tape.  The fish
of words will swim through all
the paper.  Thanksgiving
is exactly the same up there,
except in October, and they
are still loyal to the Queen.
It’s like getting on the wrong
bus and arriving at the wrong
school.
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Now, I have a handful of
believers.  The globe shakes
its oceans off onto the table,
and it is a wonder we
construct mail boxes out of
milk cartons; we send each
other Halloween greetings and
teeth like Indian corn.  Who
am I, your mommy?  Do
you want me to wipe your
ass?  The dirty man leaves
the telephone book alone.  We
get on the bus, relieved.  It’s
the wrong bus.
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Bats and Spiders
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I think I covered most of
the topics.  Not a lot has
happened to me.  I guess you
would say I’m a boring man.
I feel fortunate.  To be
honest, there are people I
detest, but they’ll get no
press here.  Bats and spiders
are in the air.  “Your
mother would never have
aborted you,” says my aunt.
Things like that get me
thinking.
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The dead hand massages the
head of the spider and
the spider shivers.  The chimes ring,
“Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh.”
It is now 6:30
on the same day.  I forget
what plans I had.  I’m letting
it all ferment.  It is a
fine wine we have.  I couldn’t
tell you what the story was if
I tried.
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The violin teacher came to the door
and looked at me sadly.  She
handed me the sheet music you
had forgotten at your lesson.
The love seat we had thrown
out of the house had been
removed from the curb.  All
the juices were being sucked
downward.  The witch’s hand
felt in her shaggy purse for
a coin.  We all had to live,
ya know.
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larson-rustin-pic
Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, The Atlanta Review and other magazines. Crazy Star was selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005. Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation among others. A five-time Pushcart nominee, and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 and 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007, 2008, and has been highlighted on the public radio programs Live from Prairie Lights and Voices from the Prairie. He lives in Fairfield, Iowa.
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Howling Enigma by Rustin Larson

howling-enigma
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By Hélène Cardona
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Rustin Larson’s Howling Enigma begins with a cornucopia of fruit and flowers amid the snow filled landscape of Iowa, where “Beowulf lives.” He describes it at times welcoming, in bloom, with “herbs / the Gerber daisies, the fall violets, the dandelion greens” and “mulberry seedlings,” and at times stark, with “pale frost on the window,” “the snow’s endless and cascading curtain” and where “sitting / in the sun is just a fantasy. / It’s six above zero.”\
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A deeply moving tribute to his parents and ancestors, this is a haunted collection where Larson spends “time with those who have gone on before me.” Memories, photos and dreams bring his kin back: “I still talk to my father in dreams. / Sometimes I see my mother from a distance.” Emotions are sparse yet hit you hard: “My grandmother hugged me / the way a mountain hugs stone.”
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Like a leitmotiv, underneath it all, solitude.
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“I wind up in places
that just seem to underline
the nature of solitude.”
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And what a treat for the reader to share Larson’s solitude, which echoes Rilke:
“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.”
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Larson has gifted us a book of mournful love, filled with nature and animals, a far-reaching goodness that permeates all in spite of the darkness he embraces.
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GOLDEN BUDDHA
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You are Golden Buddha. You are the light
Of the world. I say this in my head to
Everyone. A fine electrical night
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Hums with water, carbon molecules, through-
Out the Eastern Seabord. Computers fail
In the morning, a cool day, a brilliant blue,
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For miles. I don’t see you much in the pale
Light. You are my other soul. In the night,
We lie next to each other for hours: ale
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Bottles, groves of trees dripping with light,
A waterfall lit by lanterns: babies
Cry in their own language lit by the tight
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Hooks and loops of alphabet, flower dyes
Soaked to color the body, soul, and sky.
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Such an ode keeps the darkness at bay.
“At night, I sit on my lawn an stare into the darkness.”
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Larson’s poems are bridges, hovering between the living and the dead, light and dark, where the past and the future are intertwined, and a guitar plays in the background. Like Berryman’s ghost, Larson casts a spell with poems full of “imagination, love, intellect—and pain.”
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The poet’s meticulous observations of his surroundings and every day life, such as the “patterns in the wind” read like tender – at times disquieted – unfolding stories, his vast spirit and benevolence permeating everything.
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Naomi Shihab Nye wrote that Larson’s words “always ring true” to her. They do. There is never a false note in Larson’s poetry. They slow time to a more propitious pacing, acting as a balm. What a wondrous meditation, from which the reader returns soothed, and vibrant.
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You can find the book here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/howling-enigma-rustin-larson/1128895309

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Hélène Cardona is a poet, actor & translator, the author of 7 books, including the award-winning Life in Suspension and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb. She wrote her thesis on Henry James for her masters in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and Loyola Marymount University, and worked as an interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris. Her work has been translated into 16 languages. She has contributed to The London MagazineWashington Square Review, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Brooklyn Rail, Asymptote, The Irish Literary Times, Los Angeles Review, The Warwick Review & elsewhere. http://helenecardona.com/