In the produce section of a local grocery store, a stranger once approached the Larsens: “You’re the art couple, right?” Lance E. (BA ’85, MA ’87) and Jacqui Biggs Larsen (BFA ’86, MFA ’88) looked at each other and shrugged: “I guess so.” Which is to say, Jacqui creates paintings and collages, works that have appeared in literary journals and in exhibits across the country, and Lance, chair of the BYU English Department and former poet laureate of Utah, writes poems that have been collected in five volumes, including most recently What the Body Knows (University of Tampa Press, 2018).
The Larsens have been artistically collaborating for more than 30 years, first as BYU graduate students in the 1980s and lately in poetry books and joint art shows. When asked, “Why art?” Jacqui says “creating art is like being alive twice.” Lance quotes the poet Charles Simic, who describes poems as “other people’s snapshots in which we recognize ourselves.” Below are three of the Larsens’ works: Lance’s poem “The Shapes Sadness Can Take” and Jacqui’s paintings A Love Story Tilted and Pandora’s Dogs.
The Shapes Sadness Can Take
By Lance Larsen
A boy on his back staring past smokestacks
wants the one white cloud to look like the state
where his father was born, then the town
that swallowed his mother following the divorce,
but the cloud wants only to resemble what passed
through it once. Not a jet which is a knife
tricked out with speed. But a flock of pigeons,
one body and many, a floating room filled
with air and algorithms and crooked weather,
a forgiveness of wings, like God thinking.