A Collection of Reflection
The Wine-Dark House by Rustin Larson
Blue Light Press. 101 Pages. $15.95
Reviewed by Stephen Page
Rustin Larson’s The Wine-Dark House is ample with poems. There is certainly sufficient poetry to fill an afternoon of reading. The speaker in the poems is on a quest, a search for something: tranquility in life, redemption for deeds done, or existential meaning—possibly that spiritual plane some people call nirvana.
When a person is pondering the past, memories do not usually appear in consciousness in a linear fashion, beginning from the first memory as a child, ensued by every subsequent memory up to the present. Rather, memories customarily come to mind non-sequentially. When an event or thought triggers a memory in a person, that person remembers something that happened last year, then something that happened as a teenager, followed by something that happened as a child, and then something that happened yesterday. Psychologically, this recollection process is known as associative memory. Similarly, Larson structures the book to follow the way the narrator is remembering events. The poems jump around in time. One poem is about an adult-relationship breakup, and the next poem is about a childhood incident. The entire collection is bound together by association.
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.
The book is a good, long read. Every line in every poem makes a reader want to slow down and absorb every word. The experience is poly-sensuous, given Larson’s superb poetics. Larson is successful in that he writes outstanding poetry. Period.
Subscript: In The Wine-Dark House, Larson writes poems that demonstrate how memory works. The scenes are the narrator’s memories, but none-the-less, the situations are universal enough that a reader will access and empathize. The book is worth reading, if only for the rich language and the complete story each poem tells.