By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT ANGELES — Ray was a big, tall man who loved to fish, to eat, to laugh.
“It was like having a giant bear in the house,” remembers Tess Gallagher, his widow and the woman who brought Raymond Carver to Port Angeles.
Carver spent the last 10 years of his life here, living, loving and writing beside Gallagher.
Then he was gone in August 1988, felled by lung cancer. Carver was 50, Gallagher 45.
“I spent a lot of time very bereft,” Gallagher recalled.
In an interview this past week, she remembered how she spent her days walking the blufftop at Ocean View Cemetery, where Carver is buried.
“We were so close,” Gallagher said, “and Ray was so full of laughter and joy.”
A Port Angeles native, Gallagher is the caretaker of Carver's legacy; posthumously published collections of Carver's work include A New Path to the Waterfall, Beginners and Call If You Need Me.
She is also an author and teacher with many books of her own, including the acclaimed poetry collections Moon Crossing Bridge, Dear Ghosts and Midnight Lantern.
She spends part of the year in Port Angeles and the rest in Sligo, Ireland, where she keeps a cottage next door to her companion, the Irish artist Josie Gray.
Carver, meantime, has become known as one of the great writers of our time, revered by a range of artists, from Cheryl Strayed, author of the runaway best-seller Wild, to the late filmmaker Robert Altman.
May 25 would have been Carver's 75th birthday. And Gallagher, along with Peninsula College, has spent the past year planning to celebrate with a festival of readings, performances, movie screenings, an art exhibition and finally a kind of walkabout.
The two-week festival will conclude with “A Rouse for Ray,” a traveling reading across Port Angeles, to sites significant in his writings.
The sojourn will end at Ocean View Cemetery for his “Late Fragment.”
Did you get what you wanted from this life?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.
“This festival is going to be wonderful,” said Gallagher, “because we're bringing the poetry forward — a lot.”
A cross-section of Carver's short stories will be celebrated in two readers' theater performances next Saturday and Sunday, May 19.
But his poetry will be read, too, during an evening in the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library.
“To know the man,” Gallagher said, “you have to read All of Us [Carver's poetry collection] and hear our local Northwest poets read out loud.”
Gallagher has chosen the readers to gather at 7 p.m. Monday, May 20. Those reading beside her will include Jim Fisher, Alice Derry, Holly Hughes, Tim Roos, Kate Reavey and Charlotte Warren.
The library's Carver Room exists largely thanks to “Short Cuts,” Altman's 1993 movie based on nine Carver short stories.
Gallagher used her portion of film royalties to create the space, which has become a venue for author readings, activist group meetings and poetry contests.
When Gallagher speaks of Carver — always “Ray,” with her — a smile lights her face.
She can hardly wait for people to gather and hear his voice, in its humor and its “deadly truth,” as she puts it.
What's clear most of all: She wants listeners to hear the love Carver felt: for his wife, his friends, the world.
Poem to water
In his poem “Where Water Comes Together with Other Water,” Carver wrote about streams, like the Elwha River, running to the sea:
Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.
But these coastal rivers!
I love them the way some men love horses
or glamorous women.
I have a thing for this cold swift water. Just looking at it makes my
blood run and my skin tingle.
After the festival, Gallagher and the rest of the world will have yet another chance to see Carver's work come alive in a different form.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of movies including “21 Grams,” “Biutiful” and “Babel,” is directing “Birdman,” a picture based on a Carver short story.
The picture is slated for a 2014 release, and Gallagher has traveled to New York City to meet Iñárritu and visit the set.
“The thing about Ray,” she said, “is that I never know where's he's going to bring me.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.