Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Refuge in Her Words

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Refuge in Her Words

Article excerpt

Geography plays a role as well in Tess Gallagher's poetry and short stories

Poet and short-story writer Tess Gallagher once lived in Pensacola. That was decades ago, when her first husband was in the Marine Corps.

But the geography -- physical and emotional -- of Florida isn't as likely to appear in her writings as that of her native Port Angeles, Wash., where she grew up the child of loggers, and the country of her forebears and her heart, Ireland.

For the last several years she has spent about a third of each year in the rural community of Lough Arrow, County Sligo in the west of Ireland, where, as she has done for decades, she writes. Once married to short-story master Raymond Carver, she now shares her life with her "Irish companion," the painter Josie Gray, with whom she collaborated on a book, "Barnacle Soup: and Other Stories from the West of Ireland." Her most recent collection of poetry, "Midnight Lantern," was published in 2011 and contains works from five decades of writing.

She'll be in Southwest Florida this week to discuss her writing, first at the Palladium Theater in St. Pete on Monday, and Thursday evening at Ringling College of Art and Design. At Ringling, she's been longtime friends with art history professor Ann Albritton.

Although Gallagher came from working-class stock, the beauty of language and storytelling was always around her, she said.

"My mother's people were farmers but they were great storytellers and I listened to all those stories when I would go back there (to the Ozarks) when I was a child," said Gallagher in a telephone interview earlier this week from Ireland. "My father's people were great arguers; they'd argue about anything. Very tenacious arguing went on. There were a lot of verbal fireworks going on all the time, and I also from the start loved books."

Books and words were a refuge to Gallagher in a household that was "a stormy one because my father drank. He had to work so hard for so little money. Also we were working class so we were often set upon by bullies. I used language to put the power on them; I respected the power of language rather than stones. …

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