Tess Gallagher, A Poet of Two Northwests
Tess Gallagher was born in Port Angeles in 1943. She was the oldest of five children, and she says her childhood was full of responsibility. Her parents worked hard, cutting down trees, and Tess helped them, marking the fallen logs.
Tess says she had a strong wanderlust. It sent her to Seattle, to the University of Washington, where she studied with Theodore Roethke. Later, it sent her to Europe. But she returned to Port Angeles in the 1970s, and she’s lived there off and on ever since.
When she’s not in the northwest of the United States, Tess is in the northwest of Ireland, where she has a cottage. After the death of her husband Raymond Carver, Tess traveled a bit, searching out next steps. She found them in Ireland, where she met Josie Gray. He became her companion, and she helped him become a painter -- at the age of 69. You can find his work here.
The childhood full of responsibility and work is with her still. Tess says she is workman-like while writing. But otherwise, she is gregarious, and her poems are full of people -- family members, friends, acquaintances. She is a person who wants to feel connected to others, even after they’ve passed on. She stays connected to her mother by gardening in the same spots, and tending to the huge rhododendrons she planted decades ago.
Her companion Josie Gray died recently, but she says he’s with her -- his way of speaking, his silences, his wit. And his stories. She’s working on an additional volume of stories he told her, to follow the book Barnacle Soup.
See below for more audio links.
In the late 1970s, Tess Gallagher designed a house, paying for its construction with income she earned from poetry readings. She calls it Sky House. It's near the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and its windows offer astonishing views of the water, the Canadian coast and eagles that glide over air currents. When Raymond Carver came into her life, she had to make room for him at Sky House. Here's her recollection of that time.
Listen to Tess Gallagher read her poem "Oil Spot"
Listen to Tess Gallagher read her poem "Ambition"