“What inspires me now is my own impatience. I almost feel hatred now for casual language. The words I want to use have to be sharp, energetic. No more meandering.” –Larissa Szporluk, in an interview with Beth Woodcome for Perihelion
Read Larissa Szporluk’s poetry, and you will immediately see her focus in action. Szporluk’s poems bear no excess—she has chiseled them down to only the essentials. In fact it’s the poems’ economy that gives them their potency. The finished pieces—artful, precise, edgy—relate a deep introspection and reflection on areas of the human psyche. Yet there is restraint, which makes them all the more enjoyable. Because Szporluk refrains from the auto-biographical “I”, the self-exploration is shared with the reader. The dominant images often come from nature—plant life, horses, cows in the pasture—and evoke emotional states without getting bogged down in personal narrative. Instead of saying “Hey, look at me” the poems say something like “Come with me” and perhaps, beyond that, “Maybe you’ve been here yourself.”
These two stanzas from “Holy Ghost”, part of her first collection Dark Sky Question, give some sense of how Szporluk creates such definition in her poems:
I am the only one here, a giant,
asleep on the damp floor.
I am on the floor
of my invention, my forest
of dark sayings—
the Lord shall hiss.
My forest is always the same.
I am asleep on the damp floor.
My lids are down. Your face is secret.
Each time I read this passage, I feel it in my gut. Yet it is difficult to identify exactly what I’m reacting to—I know the Lord-as-snake is part of it, but it is also that damp forest floor. It is the world created by the human mind and heart that she has identified in me, the reader. Larissa Szporluk’s work is often described as “dark,” which is an easy crutch to rely on. However, a distinction should be made: I am struck, not by her ability to write about “dark” subject matter. Much more importantly, I am struck by the way her poems allow me to connect with my own and humanity’s shared capacity for darkness.
This excerpt from “Gargoyle,” from Traffic With Macbeth, is another such example, using the gargoyle as a means to connect with frustration and perhaps one’s) loss of power:
A hunter’s sickness
at winter’s close.
That’s my gripe:
forced to watch
the spring of life
and bite my urge
to blow it up
and gulp instead
my feeble dream
of a mauve-wet gut
of a unicorn dove.
Alluring, mysterious and cryptic, Szporluk’s poems provide brave journeys for the reader to take. The reader must harness his or her own courage at times to fully occupy the spaces these poems have created. The reader of Szporluk’s poems will be richly rewarded, as the poems stay in the mind, and in the gut long after the reading. Larissa Szporluk will make her Festival debut this year. We look forward to welcoming her.
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