There is a tradition of cerebral scholar-poets in which David Larsen is hard to place. As a translator, he performs sensitive work that preserves the alterity of medieval Arabic poetry without stooping to exoticism or hermetic dodges. His original poetry is an unconventional counterpart to this practice. It is profane, musical, and, as announced on the cover of Larsen’s 2005 debut The Thorn, “easy to read.” That book was archly described by Kevin Killian as “a book of anger, the fury that sweeps through the plain, the Abolitionist anger that made John Brown steal that ferry.” Seventeen years later comes Zeroes Were Hollow, a second book of poetry suffused with the wit of the gallows. “I was pleased as punch to let it lie,” says the first poem, “but then the bug bit me,” and indeed the book crawls with pests and vermin. By definition these are animals out of place, and ever-present familiars to the poet of Zeroes Were Hollow. Amid the laughter, it is a solemn revolt against nihilism, and a monument to civic animus and loss of life whose marble is still warm to the touch.
In 2005, Kenning published Syrup Hits, a pseudonymous chapbook-length collage billed as the “remix” of David Larsen’s first book of poetry. In Syrup Hits, the satirical undercurrent of The Thorn was channeled into a 32-page torrent on the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as filtered through slowed-down soundscapes of southern-US hip hop and the San Francisco Bay Area tradition of psychedelic protest art. Now, to accompany Zeroes Were Hollow, we are pleased to rerelease Syrup Hits in a limited, facsimile edition. “Amazing. Some of the best use of collage I’ve ever seen, and my favorite handwriting since Whalen.” — Gary Sullivan
Syrup Hits originally appeared in 2005 with endpapers block-printed and hand-tinted by the artist. This edition: reproduction, riso, hand painting, binding and image processing by Kelli Anderson, Oriana Nuzzi, and Faride Mereb.