By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The culminating event of the first Raymond Carver Festival was a traveling poetry reading, a kind of walkabout-flash mob that touched down at six locations across Port Angeles.
And as the inaugural festival ended, discussion began about next year.
“We want to do this again,” said Tess Gallagher, Carver's widow and the host of the inaugural festival that brought together poets, artists, actors and even dancers from across Washington state.
From a fast-moving Morse Creek to a still Ocean View Cemetery, readers and listeners spent a few hours with Carver on Saturday, which would have been his 75th birthday.
The starting point: a bridge over Morse Creek, near where Carver used to fish.
He'd bring his catch to Sky House, the home he shared with Gallagher during his last years in Port Angeles.
“He'd clean that fish on my linoleum floor,” leaving knife marks, she remembered, grinning.
Carver also wrote 200 poems at Sky House. After his death Aug. 2, 1988 — from cancer, at just 50 years old — Gallagher published All of Us, Carver's last poetry collection.
With red-winged blackbirds calling and the creek rushing below, Carver's words flowed.
Sequim poet Kate Reavey read “Where Water Comes Together with Other Water,” Alice Derry of Port Angeles read “The Best Time of Day,” and Seattle poet Lawrence Matsuda read “This Morning”:
This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Then it was on to the next stop, also near Gallagher's and Carver's home, and a place representing Carver's love of food.
The east-side Safeway was on the Rouse for Ray itinerary, and Gallagher didn't mind that the group was a bit big to fit into the deli area.
“I think it would be fun to go and take over the Safeway,” she said.
Standing beside the soup station, with bewildered shoppers walking past, the group listened to more poems, including “Nyquil,” which recalled Carver's drinking days.
He gave up alcohol shortly before moving to Port Angeles, where he was to enjoy a creative resurgence.
The Carver crowd traveled next to the sidewalk outside the former Thai Peppers restaurant, now the Jasmine Bistro, on Lincoln Street.
That's where Carver asked Gallagher to become his wife, so “Proposal” and “For Tess” were read aloud. Then came a few more poetry outside the Cornerhouse at Front and Laurel streets, where the couple often had breakfast in their window booth. The Port Angeles marina was stop No. 5 and the setting for Carver's “My Boat,” “Evening” and “Wind.”
Finally, the group reunited at Ocean View Cemetery, where Carver is buried. A pair of bald eagles flew overhead before the poems began.
“Another Mystery,” “Gravy” and “Hummingbird” led to the last one: “Late Fragment,” inscribed on Carver's gravestone:
Did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.
This wasn't the end of the event. Far from it.
Carver was a lover of pie, and Gallagher and company made sure there would be plenty.
About a dozen Carver fans brought freshly baked desserts — rhubarb, key lime, coconut cream, chocolate, marionberry — and, standing or seated in their camp chairs, the people partook.
Next year, Gallagher hopes to have a Rouse for Ray on Carver's birthday, May 25, and she figures interest will grow, “especially if people know there's going to be pie.”
This festival is about nourishment, Gallagher said, the sweet kind and the spiritual kind that comes in poetry. And it is an unusual one, in that it isn't about selling a lot of merchandise. Instead, Gallagher said, the events celebrate love and literature.
Carver's books were in fact for sale at the poetry reading at the Port Angeles Library on May 20. But they're also available for free checkout to anyone with a library card.
“We really did this as a small, community-spirited festival,” added Bruce Hattendorf, associate dean of instruction at Peninsula College, which co-sponsored the event.
Still, Gallagher said, it might be fun to have one souvenir, Maybe it would depict Carver in his signature leather jacket.
“We might give in to T-shirts,” she said.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.