Tess Gallagher Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Tess Gallagher was born Tess Bond, the oldest of five children. Her father worked as a logger, and her mother was a homemaker. Gallagher went to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied under poet Theodore Roethke the semester before he died. Gallagher worked three jobs to fund her college education, a sacrifice that ultimately exhausted her to the point that she dropped out before earning a degree. In 1963, she married Lawrence Gallagher. When he left for Vietnam, Gallagher realized that, despite being raised to think that a woman should marry and have children, she wanted to be an artist and needed solitude to achieve her goal. By the time her husband returned, “something [had] penetrated the dream of our lives. . . . [I]t had somehow vanished, the idea of having children.” They were divorced in 1968. She married Michael Burkard in 1973; they were divorced in 1977. Later, she met writer Raymond Carver, with whom she lived for eleven years. They married two months before his death, a death that resulted in some of her best work.

Gallagher eventually completed both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the University of Washington. She entered the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and was awarded a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1974. To support her writing, Gallagher held academic positions at St. Lawrence University (1974-1975), Kirkland College in New York (1975-1977), the University of Montana (1977-1979), and the University of Arizona (1979-1980). From 1980 to 1990, she was associate professor of English and coordinator of the creative writing program at Syracuse University. She also briefly taught at Willamette University in 1981. A new development in her poetry, one she did not feel she could communicate to her students, plus a need for more solitude for reading and writing impelled Gallagher to relinquish her tenure at Syracuse and live on savings until a three-year Lyndhurst grant enabled her to write the stories of At the Owl Woman Saloon. From 1996 to 1997, Gallagher was the Edward F. Arnold Visiting Professor of English at Whitman College, and in 1998, she was poet-in-residence at Bucknell University. She was honored as a distinguished alumna at the University of Washington.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The poet Tess Gallagher (GAL-uh-gur), one of the leading figures in the American feminist literary movement that began in the mid-1970’s, was born Tess Bond, the oldest of five children. Both her parents worked in the logging industry, and as a girl Bond assisted her father in the lumber trade and helped to farm the family’s small ranch.

Gallagher began her writing career at the age of sixteen as a reporter for the Port Angeles Daily News. Her interest in journalism led her to enroll in the University of Washington, where one of the faculty members, Theodore Roethke, sparked her interest in poetry. She discontinued her studies, however, to marry the sculptor Lawrence Gallagher in 1963. The marriage dissolved five years later under the pressure of separation during the Vietnam War.

Tess Bond Gallagher thereupon resumed her studies and graduated from the University of Washington in 1968 with a degree in English; she earned an M.A. there in 1970. In 1973 Gallagher married the poet Michael Burkard; that marriage lasted four years.

In 1974 Gallagher graduated from the prestigious Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa with an M.F.A. Her first volume of poetry, Stepping Outside, appeared that same year. The book was praised for its refreshing style and its gentle but firm defiance toward a patriarchal society. Stepping Outside was followed two years later by Instructions to the Double, which won the Elliston Award as the best book of poetry published by a small press. In this autobiographical volume Gallagher explores the many influences that contributed to her development as a woman and poet. “Black Money,” for example, portrays her lower middle-class family at the mercy of the economic and social forces beyond their influence and comprehension. In “Breasts,” the poet as a young girl, playing shirtless with her brothers, becomes aware of her development into womanhood and the restrictions that will be placed upon her when she is scolded by her mother to put on a shirt.

In 1974 Gallagher began her teaching career as an instructor of English at St. Lawrence University. From 1975 to 1977 she taught creative writing...

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(Poetry for Students)

Tess Gallagher was born on July 21, 1943, in Port Angeles, Washington, to Leslie (a logger and longshoreman) and Georgia Bond. Gallagher...

(The entire section is 389 words.)