Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Tess Gallagher, in her poetic elegy Moon Crossing Bridge, responds to the death of her husband, writer Raymond Carver. The ninety-nine-page collection includes sixty poems, about half of which previously appeared in magazines and anthologies. These poems are divided into six loosely chronological sections, separated by numbers and quotations rather than by titles. Among those quoted in the introductions to the sections are poets Pablo Neruda, Izumi Shikibu, and Marina Tsvetayeva, giving the collections an international flavor. According to Gallagher, the poems in Moon Crossing Bridge were written in the two and a half years after Carver’s death on August 2, 1988.

While critics disagree about whether Moon Crossing Bridge follows stages of grieving, the title itself, derived from a Chinese ideogram for the Togetsu Bridge near Kyoto, Japan, shows the pattern of moonlight crossing a bridge and moving, as the poems do, to a sort of illumination of the grief.

The six sections of the book tie into the elegy as a whole. Though the early parts of the book explore painful memories, even through part 3, which is referred to as “The Valentine Elegies,” part 6 includes what one critic calls “poems of recovery.” The elegy centers geographically both in Port Angeles, Washington, where Gallagher and Carver lived, and in Japan, where Gallagher traveled in 1990 to oversee the translations of Carver’s fiction into Japanese...

(The entire section is 541 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Moon Crossing Bridge, Gallagher’s fifth collection of poems, was an immediate success. It was selected by the American Library Association (ALA) as one of only two books of poetry on its 1993 Notable Books List. It also won a Washington State Governor’s Award in October of 1993. The poetry in Moon Crossing Bridge and, even more so, in Portable Kisses moves into exploration of gender issues, particularly a feminine heterosexual view of mourning, recovery, and passion. The gender explorations in the 1992 works, however, are quite different from those in Gallagher’s earlier work.

In Gallagher’s collection of short stories The Lover of Horses (1982), for example, she explores complex gender relations with more subdued passion. In “The Girls,” Ada Gilman’s daughter Billie allows her mother to ride along from Springfield to Salem, Oregon, where Billie will do a sales promotion while Ada looks for her girlhood friend of forty-three years earlier, Esther Cox. To Ada’s despair, Esther has had a stroke and can no longer remember their friendship. Esther, nevertheless, likes Ada and invites her to stay the night. During the visit, Ada cherishes lying next to her old friend on the bed as they visit, but during the return trip to Springfield with Billie, Ada sees a clearcut patch of forest, a metaphor for Esther’s memory loss, and feels as if she has been slapped by it. Billie, Ada, and Esther, who are typical of...

(The entire section is 502 words.)