Poet Rustin Larson appeases the restless spirit of Irving Toast with live talk of poets and poetry on KRUU FM 100.1, Sunday mornings at 10:30. (Photo by Christine Schrum)
It is 11:59 p.m., and gentle-mannered university librarian Rustin Larson is seated quietly in his domestic chambers poring over a text of contemporary North American verse. Suddenly, the clock of the courthouse chimes out the hour. Twelve midnight! What is that strange flickering shadow our librarian sees from the corner of his eye? The lights of the room mysteriously dim, and standing before our mild word-mincer is an apparition in gray tweed and antique wire-frame glasses, a diaphanous form nearly the twin of our dear book-shelver but for the must and dust of forgotten literary fame coating the shoulders of the specter’s somewhat stylish though dated attire.
“I am the ghost of Irving Toast, the forgotten poet laureate of Fairfield (circa 1890). Endlessly I must wander the earth, a tortured soul, unless…”
“Unless what?” our poor librarian shivers, his eyes agog and misted with fright.
“Unless you restore among the populace…”
“Yes… yes… Spirit, go on…”
“Unless you restore among the populace the true spirit of poetry, and keep it alive in the past, the present and the future.”
“Oh, yes, spirit, I do! I do promise to… Wait! That’s a tall order. Past, present, and future?! What if I just start a radio show on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM, ‘The Voice of Fairfield and Beyond’? I’ll even name it after you.”
“Deal. One hundred-plus years of wandering wears one down. Can I hang out at the station?”
“Sure! I’ll even call the pre-record room ‘The Haunted Studio’ just to make you feel at home.”
And thus Irving Toast, Poetry Ghost with Host Rustin Larson was born. The disembodied poet laureate from the late 1890s found his favorite haunting place at KRUU-LP 100.1 FM on Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m., Central Time.
Though at times you may hear his ethereal jabbering wending its way through the microphone cords, his chosen earthly medium, and host of the show, is, of course, Fairfield poet Rustin Larson.
Irving, through Rustin, has interviewed established and emerging poets and writers from the North American literary scene and has hosted haunting literary performances from talent near and far.
Among the talented personalities Irving and Rustin have interviewed are Iowa State University creative writing professor Mary Swander; Northern California poet J. P. Dancing Bear; Southern California poet Maureen Alsop; Connecticut poet Suzanne Frischkorn; Massachusetts poet Craig Deininger; New England poet W. E. Butts; and New Hampshire Poet Laureate Patricia Fargnoli.
“Rustin asked wonderful questions,” says Patricia Fargnoli, “the kind that let me talk about why poetry matters to me. . . . why poetry matters, or should, to all of us. Poetry needs more of this kind of public platform.”
The kudos continue. J. P. Dancing Bear says, “Rustin Larson asks his guests [poets] the kinds of questions . . . that can only be asked by someone who knows poetry and is aware that his audience may not—and with that awareness, Mr. Larson becomes a guide.”
Larson studied poetry deeply for years. Holding a Masters in Fine Arts from Vermont College, he has published his own efforts in many national magazines such as The New Yorker, North American Review, and The Iowa Review. He publishes a literary magazine, The Contemporary Review, and his full-length book of poetry, Crazy Star, was published by Loess Hill Books in 2005.
Irving Toast is Larson’s first foray into literary radio. His broadcasts are available to a local audience through the airwaves, and also to a national audience through archived and streaming audio on the internet (www.kruufm.com).
“Rustin Larson’s radio program Irving Toast, Poetry Ghost puts poetry on the forefront not only for the citizens of Fairfield, Iowa, but the nation!”
says Maureen Alsop, author of Apparition Wren. “Each time I tune in, I learn from other writers, what writing means to them. . . . Being haunted by a poetry ghost is most enchanting!”
Of her Irving Toast interview, Lit Windowpane author Suzanne Frischkorn says, “[It] felt like a chat with an old friend. Larson is easy to talk to and he asks the big questions—questions we should all be thinking about—the state of poetry today and the poet’s role in our culture among them.”
So, happily, the spirit of poetry takes flight again o’er the streets of Fairfield and beyond! The sweet motion of his mollified mists multiply in moments of murmurous mirth and merriment. With dulcet delight do his documents descend to rest ’neath the door of destiny again. And if you squint carefully, you can espy Irving’s swaggering swing upon the stalwart aerial of radio station KRUU-LP 100.1 FM.
“Rustin was one of the people I hoped from the very beginning would do a show on KRUU,” intones station manager James Moore. “He puts the lit in literary. Every day I toast the ghost of Irving Toast.”