WEEKEND: Poet begins tour with reading at Port Angeles Library

PORT ANGELES — Tess Gallagher doesn’t shrink from questions pointed and personal.

What good is poetry, a reporter asked, in the midst of our troubles?

Gallagher’s answer is right here, in the title of her new book.

Midnight Lantern, a coll­ection of 40 years of work plus 20 new poems, bears a painting of moonlight on its cover.

The image is by Josie Gray, Gallagher’s Irish companion, while the poetry inside springs from her Port Angeles-born heart.

Tonight, before setting off on a national tour, Gall­agher will give a reading in her hometown in the space named after her late husband: the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

Admission is free to the 7 p.m. event presented by Port Book and News. Hardcover copies of Midnight Lantern will be available for $28.

“When we come into our midnights, we need our resources,” spiritual and otherwise, Gallagher said in an interview at her blufftop home just east of town.

Those resources, to her mind, include poems, poems that help one remember and understand.

“Poetry for me is spiritual strength,” Gallagher said. “It is there to help you strengthen your spiritual muscles.”

Eyesight aid

Writing also sharpens eyesight, she has found.

One of Midnight Lantern’s new poems, “Small and Indestructible,” is an homage to a tiny, elderly woman she happened to notice one day. Gallagher sees the woman’s arthritis — and grace.

“Such beauty, such courage and poise, in the middle of my day. I thought, ‘How magnificent.’”

Writing is a way to stand back and see your own life more clearly, Gallagher added. In that way, it’s like travel. Gallagher lives several months of each year in Ireland, where she views her American self from a different angle.

She loves life here.

“I am most grateful for being born in Port Angeles,” she said. “Just the beauty is so nourishing.”

Gallagher was born 68 years ago to Leslie and Georgia Morris Bond, two who came west to work in the woods. She was the eldest of five and grew up fishing with her brothers.

And recently, she and her brother Tom Bond went out to Sekiu to fish.

She made “a journey back . . . it’s very satisfying, to touch that early part of your life.”

In Midnight Lantern, Gallagher holds up her light to look back and forward, stretching her muscles through poems short and long.

Writing has not become easier, she said.

“Every time I come to the blank page, I have to start over . . . to be a poet, you have to like to start over.”

Times of enjoyment

Gallagher is a woman who is finding sweetness in her days. She enjoys time with friends, making applesauce, having coffee, walking her dogs.

And she relishes the challenge of poetry — and of keeping her voice fresh.

“The more you write, the harder it is,” she said. But “you need to break out” again and again.

“Developing one’s vision,” Gallagher said, “is a lifelong enterprise.”

________

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

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