Jeanne Larsen’s Writing Continues To Astonish

Jeanne Larsen

When I learned that Hollins University English professor Jeanne Larsen had yet another new book on the market, I jumped on it and made sure a review copy showed up in my mail. Jeanne is a great teacher–ask her students–and a writer who uses language with an almost operatic voice.

She is often irreverent, never irrelevant. Her work is technically faultless, and there is a depth to her work that often stops her readers in mid-sentence so they can get their breath back.

Language is her art, giving her the means to express a rare wisdom and intelligence.

Now, I’ll make a difficult admission. Her new 76-page volume of poetry, What Penelope Chooses, is so far out of my field of vision that I simply can’t review it. I can tell you that it is Jeanne’s view of The Odyssey because the cover notes say that. I haven’t read The Odyssey and am not a classicist (or a poet).

But I can read the pages and feel Jeanne’s exploration into Penelope’s story, adding a woman’s vision to this most masculine of tales. Jeanne calls What Penelope Chooses an “intertextual gabfest.” The book is good enough to have won the Cider Press Review Book Award before it was even published.

Jeanne’s acknowledgements–more of a bibliography–are telling, as well. There’s a heck of a lot of reading that went into this tiny volume, a sort of boiled wool version of Greek mythology.

Jeanne has written two books of poetry, two collections of Chinese poetry translation and four novels. In the future, I’ll stick to the novels. You’re more than likely smarter than I, so read the poetry. It’ll enrich you.

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Dan Smith is an award-winning journalist in Roanoke, Va., and a member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. He is an author, photographer, essayist, father and grandfather. Co-founder of Valley Business FRONT magazine and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. On Advisory Board of New River Voice.

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