Waconia poet Larry Christianson

For Larry Christianson, life and poetry are inseparable.
Poet Larry Christenson in his natural habitat--nature.

No matter what else has occupied him in life, Larry Christianson of Waconia has always been driven to write, especially poetry. “I’ve been a poet off and on for the last 35 years, pretty on for the last 20 or 25,” Christianson says.

Growing up in the factory town of Green Bay, Wis., Christianson thought about becoming a newspaper reporter. “At some point in my late teens or early 20s, I started to write down my experiences with travels, people and places, in what turned out to be a short, poetic format instead of writing narratives,” he says.

Over the years, Christianson has done a fair amount of traveling—along the East coast as a U.S. Navy sailor during the Vietnam War, in Central America as a Moravian Church pastor and church missionary, and in frequent trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And those trips have provided plenty of fodder for his poetic muse.

Like most poets, Christianson writes not only to remember and make sense of his 63-years-worth of experiences, but to make a connection with people. “I’ve always tried to figure out how to make it about more than me,” he says. “So I’ve used the literary device of telling stories from my life, that, hopefully, other people can identify with. My style is straightforward and down to earth, not abstract or esoteric. I try to open doors for the reader, to shared experience.”

Ted Bowman, who teaches family education courses at the University of Minnesota and is an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, has known Christianson for about 30 years. “When he asked me to look over his manuscript I was quite impressed,” Bowman says. “Larry has the ability to look both at the specific as well as the common, shared experiences, and that's the essential for good poetry. He does that especially well in regard to the natural world, and also does it in some of his more ‘relational’ poems—not just about his life, but people he knows.”

Christianson has a B.S. degree in History from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and a Master's in Divinity from United Theological Seminary. But, as a poet, he is entirely self-taught.

Christianson has always been a part-time writer, while pursuing a career as a minister and missionary. He’s turned out sermons, newspaper essays, speeches, short stories, but mostly poems. He describes his literary routine as “writing in the seams of whatever else is happening.” However, his output has increased in recent years, now that he is semi-retired, working 12 hours per week as a nursing home chaplain. He occasionally reads his poems at a Waconia coffee shop with musical backing provided by a friend, singer-songwriter Peter Riedesel.

After years of putting his thoughts on paper (in longhand, no keyboard) Christianson self-published two books of his plain-spoken but eloquent poetry, Isle of Dreams (2002) and Shades of Gray (2005). Several years later, a friend referred him to St. Cloud-based North Star Press, which has published four books of his poems: Beyond Time: Poems from North of the Tension Line (2008); South of Contrary and Obama Rising (2009); and West of Everywhere (2010).

Having lived a full life not only provides plenty of material, but also confers another benefit: “At this point in life, I'm, pretty much beyond caring what anybody else thinks,” Christianson says. “I just put it out there.” Not that he's above self-criticism. Christianson says he's written well over 1,000 poems, “some that will never see the light of day.”

Christianson still has unfulfilled writing ambitions. He's “tinkered around” with a novel, but says he hasn't had the time or discipline to devote to a long-form work. He sticks to poems and essays As long as he is able, Christianson plans to keep on “honestly making meanings and keeping memories alive.”

 

THUNDER BARRAGE    

by Larry Christianson, from South of Contrary

 

Thunder barrage.

Storm building slowly

            on warm air

                        currents.

 

Floating across beautiful 

northern sky

like a flotilla

                        of ships.

 

Darkening clouds billowing.

Flashing streaks of lightening

            from afar,

                        and closing fast

in a wild wind.

 

Hail bombardment

            pounding with fury,

            pelting nylon tents

                        in surprise assault.

Giving way quickly

            to pouring rain

                        and booming thunder.

Passing through in long

            deep rumbles,

            and moving on

                        in thunder barrage.

 

All across border country.   

 

 

RAIN STORIES     

by Larry Christianson, from West of Everywhere

 

Rain stories

            splash through puddles

                        of memory.

Soggy with time

            passing,

            erasing rough edges

                        like swift currents

                        smoothing stones.

 

In streams of life.

Healing streams

            flood through minds

                        and hurting hearts

                        as Red River rises.

As water flows

            and rough edges

                        are made smooth.

And people who care

            tell stories.

 

In gathering gloom.

In penetrating shades

            of gray breaking

                        through dawn showers.

Dripping.

Clinging in icy

            patterns

            on hearts heavy

                        with grief.