Friday, April 3, 2009

Lance Larsen: "Water"

Lance Larsen is one of Mormon poetry's contemporary giants. He's just published his third collection of poems, Backyard Alchemy, which I just couldn't stop myself from buying, especially after I read his first two books, Erasable Walls (1998) and In All Their Animal Brilliance (2005). Although Lance is LDS, most of his poems are directed towards a broader audience, which is something I'm striving for in my poems.

This approach notwithstanding, his experience as a Mormon is evident in many of his poems. For instance, in Erasable Walls, he includes a poem called "A Missionary Considers His Converts," which is a rumination about serving in a different land, about experiencing and adapting to life in different cultures. Today's poem, "Water," is another on this list of poems containing explicitly Mormon subject matter, in this case baptism by "immersion," which is the first word of the first line.

Here the poet delves into the baptismal font, quite literally, with a group of near-8-year-old primary kids (CTR 8's or Valiant 9's, maybe) who are getting a lesson in the logistics of immersion. Yet, the poet seems to be the one being taught about what it means to "yearn for" (line 21) the "state" (20) of "whiteness" (19) facilitated by baptism. You can read the full poem here and you can find two other poems here, at the end of this interview Meridian Magazine did with Lance in 2003.