By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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They’re the stuff of a party on the 76th anniversary of Raymond Carver’s birth, this Sunday in Port Angeles, where the celebrated writer lived the last decade of his life.
The public is invited to enjoy it all at 3 p.m. Sunday beside Carver’s grave at Ocean View Cemetery, 3127 W. 18th St., as a raft of poets from across the region gather to read his verse aloud and, in keeping with the man’s favorite dessert, partake of some pie.
The gravesite itself has “Gravy,” Carver’s reflection on his time here with his wife, Tess Gallagher.
No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t you forget it.”
Gallagher — herself an internationally known poet who grew up in Port Angeles — is among those who will read, to the birds and anyone else who might like to listen. She will have just landed here Saturday after appearing at Dublin Writers Festival in Ireland this week.
While Gallagher traveled, Peninsula College professors Michael Mills and Kate Reavey assembled the rest of the readers: Alice Derry, Charlotte Warren, Jim Fisher, Holly Hughes and Suzie Bennett among them.
Bennett, a writer and member of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, will read Carver’s “Best Time of the Day.” Kathryn Hunt, a poet from Port Townsend, will offer his “Radio Waves,” and Port Angeles High School teacher Tim Roos plans on “This Morning” and “Mesopotamia.” Each reader chose one or two of the Carver pieces in All of Us: The Collected Poems.
Gallagher’s choices are short and romantic: “Gravy,” “For Tess” and “Hummingbird:”
Suppose I say summer,
write the word “hummingbird,”
put in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days and how much,
just how much, I love you.
Reavey, meantime, has also asked participants to bring pies to share, just as they did at this time last year.
Sunday’s celebration is the second annual, following last year’s Raymond Carver Festival, a series of readings, film screenings and performances inspired by Carver’s body of work.
Peninsula College presented the events in cooperation with Gallagher.
This spring, Gallagher has been in Ireland’s County Sligo, caring for her companion, the artist Josie Gray, and giving a few readings.
Mills, for his part, visited Carver’s grave site with visiting writer Cristina Garcia earlier this month.
“It always does my heart good to be there,” he said.