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Rustin Larson

Rustin Larson
Rustin Larson
  • Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing

A graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Creative Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival, and a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival. He is a poetry professor and MFA mentor at Maharishi International University, a writing instructor at Kirkwood Community College, and has also been a writing instructor at Indian Hills Community College.

His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, and North American Review. He won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino and was a prize winner in The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation contests. Among his published books are the poetry collections Library Rain (Conestoga Zen Press, 2019), which was named a February 2019 Exemplar by Grace Cavalieri and reviewed in The Washington Independent Review of Books; Howling Enigma (Conestoga Zen Press, 2018); Pavement (Blue Light Press, 2017); The Philosopher Savant (Glass Lyre Press, 2015); Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning (Blue Light Press, 2013); The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009); and Crazy Star (Loess Hills Books, 2005). His honors and awards also include Pushcart Prize Nominee (seven times, 1988-2010); featured writer, DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts, 2007, 2008; and finalist, New England Review Narrative Poetry Competition, 1985.

On Teaching

As writers, we are always buoyant in our subject matter. We float in it constantly; it is what comes to us, flows around and through us, and it is what makes us speak and share our stories, our experiences. Our subject is our lives and the lives of others around us. Our job is to be awake and observant to the images, sounds, lyrics and narratives that are constantly flowing in our direction. Our other job is to record with as much clarity as we can muster the music of what comes to us. To do this job, we need to learn techniques. We also need the writing tools that feel comfortable to us, whether it is pencil and paper or a computer. And after that, we need a little luck.

To bring luck our way we need a talisman. A talisman is said to be an object that has magical properties that provide particular power, energy, and specific benefits to the possessor. The most reliable talisman for a writer is someone else’s book. What is it that gets your juices flowing? A talisman does not have to be in the same genre you are working in yourself. I once knew a novelist who, when he was stuck, read John Ashbery’s Rivers and Mountains, a book of poetry, to get his vocables loosened and his pen moving. One long-lasting talisman from my past was Cesare Pavese’s poem “The South Seas.” I would read it when I felt dead, and it would restore my life.

As your MFA mentor, my job is to help you find your most fluid writing technique and also to help you find the talismans that will give you the power to write well.


“Rustin Larson is in a league of his own. In addition to being a highly acclaimed poet, he is an incredible teacher. He has zero ego and is all heart. He participates and writes poetry alongside all of his students—creating a fun, equanimous environment that builds confidence, fosters play, and encourages exploration. He creates a safe place to go inward without censorship. If something exists in you, he encourages its release with unabashed support. Rustin understands poetry from the inside out—much like the command of a gifted musician who dances between the world of music theory and a spontaneous jam (insert solo guitar shred). He shares a harmony with the written word. His earnest efforts to co-create and share this world with his students is palpable. He has a relaxed way of teaching the complex ideas and principles of poetry without the lessons feeling intimidating or overwhelming. His keen perception, skill, and encouragement were instrumental in helping me publish my first sonnet. He’s the bee’s knees, a gentle giant – a wise soul –and an excellent teacher.” —Candice Rankin

“Rustin is a superb poet and teacher, very effective with communicating only via e-mail which is so necessary for distance programs. His feedback is liberating; he pulls things apart, plays with possibilities, and shows me how rules I somehow assumed existed don’t actually exist.” —Minca Borg


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