Port Angeles poet to host Romanian writer Friday

PORT ANGELES — In Liliana Ursu of Romania, Tess Gallagher of Port Angeles found a kindred spirit.

It was 1990 when the two women met at a writers’ festival in Barcelona.

Ursu was newly free after Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian dictator who hadn’t allowed her to leave the country, was executed in late 1989.

Enchanted by words

Gallagher, who will host Ursu this Friday at the Port Angeles Library, remembers being enchanted by her fellow poet’s words.

“The music of her poetry was very compelling, even though I did not understand Romanian. I could somehow feel the spirit in the poems rising up.”

Gallagher sensed then that Ursu had done more than endure the Ceausescu regime.

“She had developed great resources of a spiritual nature . . . she had had to become and remain a poet under communism, but she had kept her religious life very much alive despite it all.”

Reading in English

Ursu will read in English from her latest book, A Path to the Sea, at 7 p.m. Friday in the Raymond Carver Room of the library at 2210 S. Peabody St.

Admission is free to the event, which is part of Peninsula College’s Foothills Writers Series.

The place for Ursu’s appearance is fitting in a sense, since her friend Gallagher is the widow of Carver, the famed short-story writer and poet who died in 1988.

Ursu travels the world now, reading her acclaimed work.

She has lectured at Penn State, taught creative writing at the University of Louisville, Ky., and was a poet-in-residence at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

This is her second visit to Gallagher’s Port Angeles home.

The pair of poets spent the days after their first meeting exploring Spain, visiting El Greco’s house in Toledo, sitting in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and writing poems at a little iron table.

Abundance of life

“From living such a constricted life and having so few basic necessities of life, she suddenly entered this abundance of Europe and of Spain in particular,” Gallagher remembers.

“She was very buoyant and exuberant and joyous.”

Gallagher, with fellow writer Adam Sorkin, translated Ursu’s poems into English for her first book published in America, The Sky Behind the Forest.

Sorkin and Gallagher also are the translators of A Path to the Sea, which contains poems inspired by Ursu’s travels to places such as San Francisco and Lisbon.

Poet Mark Strand, in praising Ursu, called her poems “flowers at the edge of the abyss.”

Sensual verse

Path is filled with sensual verse, under titles such as “Dream in the River’s Mouth,” “Longing for the Sea,” “Eating Grapes in February” and “At Day’s End, the Miracle.”

Gallagher, for her part, still marvels at her friend’s work.

“Translating these amazing poems,” she wrote on the book’s back cover, “was like translating lightning.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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