It doesn't take long in a conversation with Tess Gallagher for the topic of mortality to spring up. She has titled her latest book of poems, "Dear Ghosts," and she says the comma is intentional."This is a book full of mortality, but it also a book about how we survive in another dimension," she says of her seventh book of poems. "It is about how we shuffle through with these wonderful ghosts." [...]Carver, of course, is one of those ghosts, one of a half-dozen. Included in the cast is Theodore Roethke, the writer who inspired Gallagher to begin a path toward poetry more than 40 years ago. After working briefly as a newspaper reporter as a teenager, she studied with Roethke at the University of Washington."I took the very last class he taught," she says. "That was the crucible, that class, because it was so intense, and his presence was so pervasive. He was such a maestro; it was like being in an orchestra of one. You could feel the emotional power of poetry. He would read people's letters in class so you got this sense that it wasn't just the poetry that mattered. Even your letters were literary events."At Roethke's funeral, Gallagher met Stanley Kunitz, who would be another mentor. She says the most important accolade the new book has earned has come from Kunitz. He's now 100 and not quite yet a ghost, but a character in the poems nonetheless. "He said the book was 'a gift to the world and to the imagination,' " she recalls. [...]
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