Faribault poet and angler Larry Gavin finds inspiration in the outdoors

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2013 - 9:51 AM

Between the river banks or on the prairie or in the classroom, his words tumble out in lyrical rhythm to speak of the water, the ducks, the sky —or life.


Faribault poet, teacher and fisherman Larry Gavin, 57, is grounded in, and inspired by, Minnesota’s varied landscapes, among them, particularly, its western prairies and the forests and streams of the southeast.

Photo: Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com ,

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Larry Gavin might seem quite alone while knee-deep in a southeast Minnesota stream, casting to trout, while squinting into the low sun over a duck marsh on a November morning, or while arriving early at the Faribault high school where he teaches English and writing.

Or while appearing, as he will today, at Tom Helgeson’s Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

But accompanying him always is Larry Gavin the poet, the smile or nod beneath his ball cap a mask for the open floodgate of words that tumble endlessly within, awaiting order.

Which sooner or later some of the words will be given, perhaps when Gavin rises early one morning before school to write, or perhaps in the evening after he bank walks the Cannon River not far from his home.

It’s then that Gavin the fisherman, hunter, teacher, also husband, father, former small-town policeman, bicycle rider and, perhaps fundamentally — Minnesotan — casts the tumbling words in rhyme, rhythm and meter; the poet’s work.


Let it be the moment

before stepping into the water to fish.

Flies lined up in a box like

days on a calendar. A cigar

still unlit waiting: cows,

the definition of bliss, graze along

the far bank like those things

in life we hope to never forget.


Born in Austin, along the Iowa border, Gavin, who grew up on the outskirts of that town, knew early on he would be a writer.

Not just any writer, but a poet.

“I wrote all the time in high school,’’ he said. “Austin was a great place to grow up. Where we lived, we had a creek that flowed into East Side Lake, then into the Cedar River, which flows through Austin and down into Iowa. It was there that I fished smallmouth, northerns and carp.

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  • Just Outside Aberdeen, South Dakota

    In my mind, I track ducks

    In astonishing numbers as they circle a marsh

    North of town. mallards, ring-necks, canvas backs,

    Teal - they circle and spin in great dark orbits

    Searching the cattails for safe passage.

    And the wind, like a creature from the north,

    Fuels their need to land, or failing that,

    Continue south all night and out of state.

    Round bales stretch to the horizon

    Like monuments from some ancient

    Civilization that, no doubt, worshipped


    In my mind, evening is coming on.

    The dog whimpers in the cold. She senses

    The urge to migrate too an urge that’s

    New to her today, an urge to wander

    the countryside, to go feral, to desert me

    to fend for herself, take her chances

    with the landscape, fight her way through it

    and float upward until she becomes an idea.

    We are not alone here on the edge of thought

    We are doubled. Like sky in marsh water,

    Like duck bellies on the surface of the sky,

    And in my mind, one mallard tail feather,

    Curly as a northern low, drifts to the water

    Like a pendulum, back and forth,

    Back and forth, until it lands - floating here

    Buoyant as hope in the face of loss.


    Blue bills pile up

    on Tim’s slough

    and the weather man,

    more lost than normal,

    says: rain, sunshine, snow.

    But we know, the dog and I,

    that city weather does not apply here

    in cattails under a darkening sky.

    We know too

    that these ducks have flown so far

    ahead of this wind

    they feel they own it,

    and by association

    own the open water,

    a kind of unmanageable daughter,

    needing there attention

    so they land

    ending the way they began.

    Behind them snow starts

    delicately at first

    a portent

    a sign

    a drifting, lacy reminder

    that supper is cooking

    and that these days


    always arrives

    faster than light.

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