Yesterday, I spent a good deal of a good day with David Larsen's Syrup Hits. Of course I enjoyed it immensely. There hasn't been anything that Larsen has come out with that I didn't like on some level. I mean, I even thought the Asiatic lion translation project was pretty cool. Syrup Hits is a little older, and it's a bit hard to get a hold of, but if you live in Berkeley, and/or you know Clay Banes, and/or you are amazingly cool, you can get a copy eeeeasy.
It occurred to me that David Larsen is like a DJ. Not like your DJ at the local Adidas shop or whatever, but like a real DJ. A super multi-talent, like Kid Koala. The kind you hear about and think must be lame but is actually freakishly awesome once you go to a show.
Syrup Hits and his latest effort, San Francisco Sound, are a lot like that. I looked inside and thought, "oh no; another guy trying to make poems and cartoons get in bed together." But I was completely foolish. . . which is a feeling I've got used to and now embrace. Larsen's work is mixed media and all, but it doesn't feel forced or distracting like some of the picture/poetry stuff that's come out lately.
I understand the urge to put pictures next to text. After all, that's how we usually see words, companions to photographs. But poetry should be able to stand on it's own. So if you have a Pablo Neruda book, you don't really have to stick Pablo Picasso drawings in there. It might make it a little more attractive in the store when Jennifer and Cindy are flipping through it, but it's superfluous noise, really. It doesn't add anything to the poetry. Images cannot complement or compliment poetry.
Gary Sullivan reinterprets poetry with little cartoons. That's different. That is transformation, not accompaniment. Like a cover of a song. I like covers of songs. Even if they suck, it's fun to see how a musician has reworked or "reimagined" someone else's piece.
OK, but Larsen beats Sullivan and all cover artists to the punch. The images are the poetry. His books are the song, the cover, the remix, and the scratch. That is exciting. That is totally worth calling Pegasus Downtown for.
Syrup Hits is from Kenning Press.