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Utah poet laureate comes to WSU for reading

Utah’s poet laureate, Lance Larsen, gave a public reading of a few of his works and a book signing in Elizabeth Hall on Monday. A current Brigham Young University

(Photo by: Eden Buxton) Poet Laureate, Lance Larsen signs his book for Dwight Adams on Monday. Larsen also did a public reading from his books.
(Photo by Eden Buxton) Utah’s poet laureate, Lance Larsen, signs his book for Dwight Adams on Monday. Larsen also did a public reading from his books.

professor, Larsen received his doctorate degree from the University of Houston and has published four books of poetry since 1998.

The poet laureate program began in 1997 with the appointment of David Lee by Governor Mike Leavitt. Larsen, the fourth recipient of this title in Utah, is charged with traveling throughout the state and promoting literature in schools, universities, community centers and other public settings. The title, which Katharine Coles (appointed in 2006) recently gave up, is held for approximately five years, at which point the Utah State Poet Laureate program under the guidance of the Utah Arts Council Literature Program and the Governor’s Office will appoint a new poet laureate.
Some traditions established in the past carry through no matter who holds the title. An example of this is the Bite-Size Poems Project, which Coles established in 2009. The idea of the project is to send pieces of poetry that can be read aloud in one minute or less out to the people of Utah at least once a month. Larsen, who has since taken over the project, wrote and performed “Some Minutes,” an original poem, for December 2009.
Kathleen Herndon, chair of the English department, brought Larsen to Weber State University. He read his own poetic accounts of his life growing up in Idaho, particularly time he spent in New York and Eden. He also performed several new poems that have not been published.
During breaks from reading his poetry, Larsen discussed the importance of words and literature in the lives of the individual.
“Any time you’re talking about poetry . . . you’re in the realm of close observation,” Larsen said. “I think that’s what the literary arts offer us. Poetry is pretty good dirt in which we bury that which we hope will grow. It is a very rarefied art . . . Poems record the past and provide a kind of documentary witness to our own lives.”
Larsen’s poetry, holding such titles as “Some Estrogen Stories to Balance the Scales” and “Late Morning Salvage,” brought laughter and sighs from the audience.
When asked by Susan McKay, an English professor, how he knew when he was a poet during a Q-and-A session following the reading, Larson said he “grew into . . . poetry as a first love” while he was in school.
“I would stay up until 3 a.m. on a simple comparison/contrast essay,” Larson said. “It made me feel alive in a way that no other classes did.”
Larsen’s public reading was followed by a book signing, which included his four collections of poetry. His works, which have won numerous awards, were published in various prestigious publications, including the “Georgia Review,” “Southern Review,” “Ploughshares,” “Poetry,” “River Styx,” “Orion,” “The Pushcart Prize Anthology,” “Best American Poetry 2009” and “Poetry Daily.”
Daniel West, a freshman, said he believes Larsen coming to WSU was beneficial for students.
“It seems that having the poet laureate come would be a good opportunity for students who are curious about poetry to get their feet wet,” West said.
He said language in general can have a real impact on the world.
“Words are important . . . because they have real power — they’ve killed monarchs, lost elections, seduced men and wooed women,” West said. “They’ve started wars, initiated peace and calmed children. One can learn much from a person simply by studying the words they say or write and how they use them.”
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