Deena Larsen’s life has not been entirely the same as that of other writers because of her physical ailments. Although many writers and artists frequently struggle with all sorts of predicaments, in the vast majority of cases, their creative muse emanates from mental and/or social disparities to their peers. Great authors of classic literature have produced the most sublime works when ailed by the haunting thoughts of depression and pain, yet Larsen’s approach is much more optimistic, and the result so far has not been fatalistic. Larsen learned to live with her MHE condition, because she was never alone in the struggle for her mother taught her to handle the pain of their abnormal bone growth in alternative manners. Deena has managed to reflect it into peculiar poetic pieces that show her scarred self and psyche that has not given up and still stands accomplished and positive. It would be unfair to consider MHE the sole muse of her creativity, because not all her works reflect her battle against it. However, in works like “Tree Woman”, “Firefly”, and “Carving in Possibilities”, the reader is able to see her as a survivor that carries along the weight of being different, not as a burden, but as a reminder of all the paths already walked and learnt from.
When Larsen began experimenting with electronic literature in the 80’s, most people still lacked unlimited access to technology as most of us have now. Part of her worth as an e-lit poet, lies in her pioneering approach to it, which has now made her into an expert of the field. Because she grew up in such an open and communicative environment, she has also taken upon the duty of teaching others of the possibilities of e-lit, which are still unknown to a great majority. Her creations are varied but there would be no point to them if nobody else could understand and/or appreciate them. She has not limited herself to a specific style; instead, her work seems to bring together many possible variations of e-lit in what could well be an effort to exemplify the vast reach of this “newborn” technique.
Her poem Tree Woman uses flash imagery to put together different pictures of trees with varied marks in their trunks. In each of the changing verses, she alludes to different situations that can leave a mark on a woman’s life, like the death of their offspring. Each of the things she cites makes the tree peculiar and unique because each scar makes the trunk more intricately detailed. The strength of the tree is of greater worth because in each scar lies a lesson learned, yet its outside can tell the stories that may sometimes get lost through time. Scars do not allow us to forget, and remain forever as a physical log of survival and growth. Much like her life story, she too has been marked and molded by the things she had to get through, but she still stands strong, and her narrative is richer because her path has been steep and tiresome.
Carving in Possibilities also has a touch of her inner development shining on the outside when she writes about how a rock gets to be a statue through the violent carving that eventually turns it into art. At one point, the verses hint at the despair of being in between the process, and show the entrapment of the statue and how it suffered, ignored by many. It isn’t until the statue realizes its worth and beauty that it carries on, no matter what it had already suffered, and the many scars that made it what it then had become. This poem always renews itself into a different story each time that remains similar in its context to all its previous versions. In one of the variations, she asks, “Can you distinguish the atoms of your soul from the stone?” which could be paralleled to her realization that her worth as a person –and a poet, lied within her essence and not in the view of all the others who managed to mock her pain. With each stroke of the chisel, and each blow that carved a new crease in the tree trunk, they both achieved their individual perfection, because they were perfect by being unique, not by being pristine and untarnished. Larsen had to find her inner worth in order to withstand the cards she was dealt, and the reader can be certain that she succeeded in doing so, because her works show a reflection of her marks as symbols of growth through the pain of being different and having the courage to carry on. Firefly, on the other hand, plays with the illusion of depth as a tool for exploration and appreciation of one’s true fundamental nature. Each time one of its lines is clicked on, it changes; ergo the poem may be interpreted in endless manners. That symbolism she employs is part of her analogy on the true importance of life. Like the rings of a tree, like each carving in a stone, each layer allows the reader to get closer to a better understanding of each piece and symbolically of her struggle.
Deena Larsen’s life is not as simple and superficial, that just some poems may represent it thoroughly. However, the lessons she has had to learn along the way are mirrored in the way she puts things in perspective. She too, -like many classical poets, could have dwelt in her pain and the woes of having to live like that. Instead, she chose to keep walking and learning from each reminder of her body that in aching she was alive. The pain of her condition is one that does not go away, so she managed to carry it along with her and delve into the many layers of her existence for better and brighter reasons to live. Her work serves to teach others about this new way of writing, but also of a new possibility for living. Even when each person’s pain is unique and impossible to fully comprehend, she has set an example as a pioneer writer but also as a pioneer survivor. It is often said that the pain instilled by life’s blows is the ultimate catalyst towards change and improvement, and Larsen serves as an example that life will not be less painful when hidden in sorrows and bawling, and each step along the way may always be a reminder of the things worth living for.