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Wilma Weant Dague
GALLAGHER, TESS (1943- ) Tess Gallagher's poetry continually revisits seemingly unremarkable events to explore issues of identity and relationship. With its focus on details of daily life and its use of personal experience, Gallaghers writing reflects the influence of the confessional poetry of her immediate predecessors, including ROBERT lowell and Sylvia plath; like contemporaries Louise glück, Jorie graham, and Sharon olds, Gallagher uses individual experience consciously to evoke larger patterns of history and humanity.
The oldest of five children, Gallagher was born and raised in Port Angeles, Washington. Having worked for the Port Angeles Daily News since the age of 16, she began her studies at the University of Washington in journalism but changed her focus after studying creative writing with mentor Theodore roethke. She received a B.A. (1968) and an M.A. (1970) from the University of Washington and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop (1974). Writer Raymond carver, with whom the poet had a longstanding relationship and later married, was perhaps the single most significant collaborator, influence, and inspiration of her literary career. She has published 10 collections of poetry to date, including Instructions to the Double (1976), Willingly (1984), Amplitude: New and Selected Poems (1987), Moon Crossing Bridge (1992), and My Black Horse: New and Selected Poems (1995). She has received numerous awards and prizes, among them two National Endowment for the Arts grants (1976 and 1981) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1978-79).
In "Amplitude" (1987), a Christmas visit to Port Angeles prompts a reflection on her ambivalent relationship to childhood memories and the decaying mill town. As she and her brother pass the cemetery where her father is buried, she is surprised to find them in "Ray's Mercedes"-: "in the guise of those we'd learned to / hate as having more than their share." In this poem we see Gallagher's recurrent themes of beginning and persevering, of departure and return, and of the self and its doubles, which are always grounded in common human experience rooted in place and time. As it is here, the time of Gallagher's poetry is often that of memory and of elegy, as she recalls events in her own life and in those of friends and family, who become the poet's doubles. Use of concrete images—here the urban landscape—and of common speech—"'Let's / go Sis,' handing me the Scaggs tape" ["Amplitude" 1987]) reflect not only Gallagher's working-class upbringing and background in journalism, but also the increasing drive, over the course of her career, toward narrative. Throughout her career, Gallagher's poetry has explored issues of the self—and of the relationship between self and other—through the studied investigation of common human experience.
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