Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning

People ask me, “Rustin, when are you going to give us a free-of-charge peek of that award-winning book of yours?” 

I say, “My fine people.  Will I hide my light under a bushel?  NO!  I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!  Take a paper plate from the head of the buffet, say grace, and have yourself a heapin’ helpin’.  And uh-one, and uh-two…  Myron, sound the accordion!”




Rustin Larson ‘s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Saranac Review, Poets & Artists and other magazines. He is the author of The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009) and Crazy Star (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 seven-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 & 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007 & 2008, and he was a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival in May 2012.




Challenging a reader’s perspective while remaining accessible, direct and vulnerable, Rustin Larson magically turns the routine into the extraordinary. His ability to craft memories, whether shaded, flickering or luminous, entices readers of Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning to linger, examine and encounter the significance of seemingly routine lives. Larson elegantly uses detailed, sensual images, chiming rhythms, and well-chosen, well-placed words to evoke layers of thematic content. Rustin Larson’s poems entertain and inform while examining the many facets of the lives we endeavor to accept, enjoy and use for good purpose. -Michael Carrino, author of By Available Light


Larson writes like an angel, but one who’s willing to work both sides of the street. -John Peterson, Wapsipinicon Almanac


Like Odysseus, Larson has been trying to find his way home, or at least to redefine that home. Larson’s vehicle for his journey is the process of writing itself, which he has dedicated himself to and which he knows can be both circuitous and serendipitous. But the writer who pursues his craft, like Odysseus who pursues the journey home, must have patience… the poet and his journey are one. -Stephen Schneider, Pirene’s Fountain


Each poem in Larson’s book is packed with as much detail as a short story. The narrator often alludes to literary works, famous as well as infamous people, easily identifiable locations on the globe, and renowned historical events that either relate to the poems thematically, or place the memories in history for the reader. The poems do not adhere to any one form, but rather, they take form as their contents require. Larson’s writing style is multifarious. -Stephen Page, Buenos Aires Herald


From moment to moment, Larson is surrealistic, Proustian, stand-up-comedy funny, dead serious, sad, ecstatic, deadpan. In Larson’s multitude of stories and modes, there’s always some layer of the writer concerned with craft, with metawriting… Write on, Rustin, write on. -Vince Gotera, North American Review


Sample Poems:




Pavese was obsessed

with hills and women and night.


When tired, I find myself longing,

but not for this place.


A single-engine plane

low overhead; sun shining


on the leaves of the sycamore.

Pavese was obsessed


with wandering and returning.

We spend most of our lives returning.


This stone, eroded by sun and wind and rain,

will look like that woman, sentient


to a single curled, golden

leaf that rattles across


the gravel path. I could see it

even if I were blind.


Pavese was obsessed with hills

and rain.


He wrote one great poem

that really wasn’t about the sea.


Today, I walk as far

as I can. Near some farm-


pasture, cows grazing. The land

undulates and curves in long loaves


of soil and grass. There is a pond

mid-distance, fringed by yarrow,


blazing stars.

Sometimes I think I can walk forever.


I skirt around

a tree and its huge roots,


imagine I am on a narrow

mountain pass, a bundle


of peacefulness and zero blame.

Back on the road, I nearly step on


and crush and kill

a tiny snake no longer


than a #2 pencil

and about as thick.


It immediately convulses

in a coil to strike.


I step over it,

and turn half-fondly to look,


but it keeps its poise

and rears back its head.






Summer. Grand Grandfather

and Great Grandmother Curin

sit on the running board

of their Model A.


Trees are full and it’s Sunday

because there is the church

behind them. He has his pipe

in his right hand.


His overalls are his best and

clean– a thick blue shirt, crisp.

She wears a limp dress

with a pattern of the sky,


a swarm of lightning bugs,

pendant with the smoky red

luster of garnets. She is small,

heavy; he, thin, moustached


and smiling. On his right knee,

his grown daughter’s shadow

appears: a photographer

with butterfly wings.







My father says, pitching it to my glove,

“Don’t let it attack you.”

I taste the leather, pound my fist

In the pocket, feel the crack

Of the planet hitting my palm.

Attack the ball, kick the earth,

Invent the soil, sweat and let

The trees applaud in a gust,

Throw the spinning world we must

Toward each other, father and son,

While neighbors lacquer their hot rod

The color of mid-autumn

And the fumes make us high. Attack

The ball, catch a bomb, launch a missile,

Throw for home with the eyes of raccoons

In the burdock, and eyes of sparrows

In the elms, branches rotting and falling,

Twigs we call first,

Second, and third, utility pole we call

Foul, gopher dust and the smoky breeze

With October flaming in the trees.






but not the life lived. Near exhaustion, but

what have I done? On a whim, I take a shovel

to the yard and dig. Neighbors splay their blinds to watch me.

What is down there? I find coins and a bunch of bones.

I find an old telephone and an iron and a hit pipe some

teenager must have chucked in a panic. I find old blue

and brown medicine bottles, a cameo ring of a girl

with a garland in her hair. There are large rusted needles

and nails and hinges from cabinets.

There are porcelain knobs and shards of crockery.

There is the barrel and cylinder of an old pistol–

knife blades and tarnished silver spoons.

I dig until the moonlight fails me and I can see nothing

forever. Then I sit down on the edge

of what I am and let the wind sing in my mouth.






There is a giant eyeball living

under the staircase.

There is a giant eyeball

and seven dancing devils.


Yes, I can make you a bird suit

so you can teach yourself to fly.


Never forget you are an alien life form.


Some years ago my father dug himself out of his grave,

tooled around town

in a yellow ’75 Impala.


It came in handy now and then.


So if in the future

you’re at your rope’s end,

don’t hesitate

to call. I will dig

myself upward, reconstitute

my ashes, press my scattered

voices together with the glue

of ether, stand by your shoulder

like a whirlwind.






My lion watches from the kitchen window

and listens to the schoolboys yelling hai-YA!


He breathes his loud purrs and then roars,

grunts rhythmically

as the afternoon drains into gutters.


He would like to prowl and prance

the savanna free and eat a villager,

and I would like nothing better

than to unlock the door and hold it open.


My lion pads up to my recliner, licks my feet.


The Hungarians downstairs are afraid

of his sheer weight and power everyday

pounding above them.


He claws up to my shoulders

and gives my neck a playful bite.

I know (and he knows) he could snap me, like that!


This is what keeps us so close.



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