Lance Larsen: The Great Mormon Poet?

I don’t want to steal Jonathan’s thunder, but I just came across something interesting and couldn’t contain myself. Darn poets!

There’s been a lot of talk in the past about the Great Mormon Novel, but we don’t hear much—if anything—about the Great Mormon Poet (or Mormon poetry or poetry in general, for that matter). I’ve accepted the fact that I’m practitioner of an art that’s fallen on hard times, if it was ever not on hard times, that is, but I’m doing my best to work that system and to broaden the (Mormon) audience for poetry in whatever nominal way I can—a task I find as necessary as love.

Hence, I’ve decided (finally!) to do my dissertation (pending approval) on the poetry/poetics of Lance Larsen. Of all the verse I’ve read over the past however many years, his has stuck with me most. It doesn’t wallow in the postmodern condition, doesn’t refuse tradition and values and the strength of community (especially the family). It doesn’t flounder in self-pity over the failures of language (though Larsen is aware of that trend) and, by extension, it’s not mere wordplay. On the other hand, it doesn’t reach for some type of transcendence beyond this world, refusing to engage the ordinary, the mundane, the familiar in some attempt to move beyond the immediate. Rather, it’s firmly rooted in mortality, in the family, in the possibilities of communities and the “small disturbances” that cumulatively make up a life and that bind humans of all stripes in lasting connections, including those made possible through language.

As I see it, the strength of Larsen’s poetry makes him one of Mormonism’s best—if not the best poet currently writing in/from the Mormon tradition. And though he doesn’t specifically write for a Mormon audience, his Mormonism permeates and grounds his verse in, dare I say it?, hope for a better world. That and he can turn a beautiful, even sublime, line, something that places him among America’s best poets (as I’ve just discovered, though the preceding link’s a month old; hence this quick post).

And that, I think, is an achievement worth mentioning, even applauding, on AMV.

9 thoughts on “Lance Larsen: The Great Mormon Poet?”

  1. .

    Sheesh. Even I knew he was in that book.

    That said, I think it’s a worthy topic for a dissertation. Good luck selling them on it!

  2. I had Lance Larsen for an introductory creative writing class at BYU, and at that time I had no idea who he was, and I didn’t even like poetry. And then I went to my first poetry reading–which was with Lance Larsen–and I fell in love with poetry. I love language, and hearing poetry read aloud satiated this thirst that I didn’t know I had. I drank it up. I also like hearing Lance Larsen’s insight for aspiring writers. Have you ever listened to his BYU Forum address? Or his interview with KBYU? Fabulous stuff. I hope that dissertation works out for you.

  3. Katherine: I watched his forum address on KBYU when he delivered it—definitely fabulous—but I haven’t listened to the interview all the way through yet. Thanks for the links.

  4. loved both of those, Katherine. Also had him for creative writing.

    He gave me a book of poetry to read, to inspire my own poetry reading. It’s somewhere on my shelf, as yet unread. I feel pretty guilty about it, sometimes. Since Noveling has become my past time, I’ve neglected poetry. Larsen is most definitely a poet… he talked about how he could never write a novel because he’d take so long writing it, due to agonizing over every single word and line.
    🙂

  5. Your comment made plenty of sense to me, NSG. I especially like what you’ve said about Larsen being all poet because prose is too painstaking for him to write (though he’s a pretty decent essayist). I often feel the same way, sweating over finding the right word in order to convey the experience I want to convey.

    I appreciate you weighing in.

  6. Deat Tyler:
    I`m writing you from Madrid (Spain)
    I think than qualify a poet by his religion( I supouse than this is an honour for him) is too litle, a poet is a blesed human been and one honour for mormons and for non mormons like me too.
    The words of Lance Larsen let to any one of us
    dream or even more: fly a little beat.with the siplest and complicate tool of poetic lenguage.
    Best regards from suny Spain and I`m sorry if I can`t express better my self in English
    Antonio Caballos

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