Lance Larsen, who currently serves as an associate chair in the English Department at BYU at Provo, visited BYU-Hawaii on Nov. 16 to give a poetry reading and Q&A session for students at the Little Theater.
During the session, Dr. Joe Plicka, an assistant professor of English at BYUH, introduced Larsen by sharing his respect and admiration for him as a poet and as a professor.
Plicka said he found out that Larsen was coming for vacation to Hawaii. “We invited him to come to campus, and he was glad to do so.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the founding or the tradition here of having a reading series - as you might have at some large universities - where you invite writers to come in and share their work like Dr. Larsen did today.”
In relations to the session, Carly Stone, a senior English major from Arizona, said, “He read from some of his work and then explained where he gets his inspiration from [and] how he creates this inspiration. Part of his advice was, ‘Flypaper-grab everything that interests you, and it could turn into something potentially [good].’ Such a cool guy!”
During the Q&A session, Larsen said the process of free writing is different for everyone. He shared that his ideal time for writing is during the morning, and he prefers to do it outdoors. He said that many times he reads from other people’s poetry and said he does so “just to see where something will take me.” He said sometimes his poems are an answer to someone else’s poem, almost similar to having a conversation.
Plicka said Larsen also met with the class he teaches, English 418R (Writing for Publication), which is an advanced creative writing course. Larsen read and gave feedback on the students’ non-fictional stories.
Stone was one of the students whose story was critiqued by Larsen. She said, “I was so scared and nervous. I was told to write on something that was personal to me, so I put it out there. He said very nice things, but he also said some critiques that helped me in a very positive way.
“It was a nonfiction essay and he talked about my character [and] that I needed to add more power to her. [He said], ‘I know you have it, but let that character in the story have it. Show us that she has power.’
“You could tell that every student was furiously writing, trying to write down everything that he said.” During the feedback, Larsen said, “You don’t need to take my advice if that’s not your instinct.”
Jordan Holbrook, a junior English major from California, said, “I was expecting Lance Larsen to be very strict and serious. I was actually expecting the whole thing to be more serious, and he is just relaxed [and] normal like your average guy who is just a writer. Because of that, it made me more interested. I felt that I could relate to him more. It gave me hope because I want to be a writer, so he gave me the realization that I could do it too if I try hard enough.”
Of the class feedback, Holbrook added, “He talked a lot about on how to properly tell the story to your reader to make your reader read the story again and to want more, so it was really helpful for me. I liked it a lot.”
Holbrook also talked about Larsen’s dedication to the class when submitting their papers to him. “He read them and you could tell that he really took the time to read them. He even said that he read each paper twice at least, and he made notes all over the paper. You could tell he took time out of his busy schedule because he really cares about the students.”
Plicka continued, “Dr. Larsen is not just a great poet, he’s a great teacher. He has been teaching for about 30 years. He knows how to talk about poetry in a way that people are inspired, so I will say I hope that we could do this more often. I hope that we would be able to get support to bring other people to campus. I mean this is a university–we should be having more events like this and inviting thinkers, scholars, and speakers to campus and participating [or] partaking of their ideas.
“I went to BYU and he was one of my favorite teachers there. [He] made me understand a lot about poetry, enough to make me love and appreciate poetry as a way of knowing the world and of discovering things through language about feelings and ideas.” Plicka mentioned how not a lot of people read poetry nowadays and that it is more of a niche than a public art form.
Larsen referred to Joe and his wife, Emily Plicka, as his friends and mentioned other close friends from faculty and staff at BYUH, including President Tanner, who was his department chair at the BYU English Department.