Tess Gallagher Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Tess Gallagher is known primarily as a poet, although she authored a teleplay, The Wheel (1970), early in her career. Gallagher began writing prose in the 1980’s, probably because of the influence of her husband, writer Raymond Carver. She wrote the screenplay The Night Belongs to the Police (1982) and joined her husband in writing the screenplay Dostoevsky (1985). In 1986, Gallagher published The Lover of Horses, and Other Stories and A Concert of Tenses: Essays on Poetry. She published At the Owl Woman Saloon (1997) and Soul Barnacles: Ten More Years with Ray (2000).

Gallagher’s body of work also includes columns for American Poetry Review and poems, short stories, and essays published in such prominent periodicals as Antaeus, Ironwood, Missouri Review, The New Yorker, and North American Review.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Tess Gallagher is noted for her sensitive portrayal of family life as well as insightful, almost mystical exploration of personal issues, particularly grief. At their best, her works meld the ordinary with the evocative and are emotionally and philosophically profound. Although some have found Gallagher’s work occasionally self-absorbed, she is generally considered one of the United States’ best modern poets.

From almost the beginning of her writing career, Gallagher’s talent has been recognized. In 1976, she received the Elliston Award and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and from the New York State Arts Council in 1976. She won the Voertman Award in 1978 and the Washington State Book Award in 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1993. American Poetry Review honored her as having the best poems of 1980. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978, a second grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981, a New York State Arts Grant in Poetry in 1989, and Maxine Cushing Gray Foundation Award in 1990.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bowers, Susan R. “Transgressing Taboos: Tess Gallagher’s Erotic of Grief.” In Transgression and Taboo: Critical Essays, edited by Vartan P. Messier and Nandita Butra. Mayagüez, P.R.: College English Association, Caribbean Chapter Publications, 2005. Deals particularly with transgressions of boundaries of love and death in the poems of Portable Kisses and Moon Crossing Bridge. Regards Gallagher as an important feminist voice.

Derry, Alice. “Urgent Stories: Tess Gallagher’s Dear Ghosts.” Review of Dear Ghosts. Northwest Review 45, no. 2 (Spring 2007): 152-158. Argues that much of modern poetry comes across as clever, ironic, and conceptually obscure, while Gallagher’s causes its readers to “feel deeply,” largely through the beauty of her poetic language.

Gallagher, Tess. “An Interview with Tess Gallagher.” Interview by Megan Sexton. Georgia State University Review (Spring, 1992): 1-13. Gallagher reflects on her writing since the death of Carver, on the poems of Moon Crossing Bridge, and on the “community of women” who support her, including her mother.

_______. “Tess Gallagher.” Interview by Nicholas O’Connell. In At the Field’s End: Interviews with Twenty-two Pacific Northwest Writers, edited by O’Connell. Seattle:...

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