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The collection includes "Montgomery Hollow," the title poem, and the famous, "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg," in which he turns to the reader, midway through his description of a dying town, and says, "Isn't this your life? That ancient kiss/ still burning out your eyes? Isn't this defeat/ so accurate, the church bell simply seems/ a pure announcement: ring and no one comes?" His 1973 book, The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir, is both about Montana and not about Montana. Of his method, Hugo once said: "Usually I find a poem is triggered by something, a small town or abandoned house, that I feel others would ignore." The poems in The Lady in Kicking House Reservoir are tied to place and landscape, but Hugo's real subject matter remains elusive. From the book jacket: Richard Hugo (1923-1982) was born and raised in White Center, Washington. He flew thirty-three missions in Europe as a bombardier in World War II, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to Seattle to study with Theodore Roethke at the Writing Program. Nominated for the National Book Award. From 1977 to the end of his life, Hugo served as the judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Upon publication of The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir in 1973, Richard Howard wrote, "Richard Hugo's concern is the unenviable, the unvisited, even the uninviting, which he must invest with his own deprivation, his own private war.... Each poem adds its incisive particulars to the general stoic wreck; but what startles, then reassures in all this canon of the inconsolable, the unsanctified, the dispossessed, is Hugo's poetics, the analogy of language to experience. . . . Richard Hugo is such an important poet because the difficulties inherent in his art provide him a means of saying what he has to say. It is no accident that he must develop a negative in order to produce a true image."
Richard Hugo was a major American poet, an influential and inspiring teacher, and a master of the personal essay. Many of these essays have now been assembled and arranged by Ripley Hugo, the poet's widow and a writer and teacher, and by Lois and James Welch, writers and close friends of the poet. Together the essays constitute a compelling autobiographical narrative that takes the poet from his lonely childhood, through the war years and his working and creative life, to an interview just before his untimely death in 1982. The introduction is by William Matthews, also a friend of Hugo's. Richard Hugo, author of eight volumes of poetry, directed the University of Montana's creative-writing program and edited the Yale Younger Poets Series. Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems was published in 1984. Ripley Hugo lives in Missoula, Montana, as do the Welches.
Richard Hugo was that rare phenomenon of American letters -- a distinguished poet who was also an inspiring teacher. The Triggering Town is Hugo's now-classic collection of lectures, essays, and reflections, all "directed toward helping with that silly, absurd, maddening, futile, enormously rewarding activity: writing poems." Anyone, from the beginning poet to the mature writer to the lover of literature, will benefit greatly from Hugo's playful, profound insights and advice concerning the mysteries of literary creation.
Hugo's most important subject is the American West; as William Stafford said of The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir, "A part of the West belongs to Hugo. By telling over and over again its places and people he reclaims it from the very bleakness he confronts; and it all begins to loom as a great intense abode that we can't neglect, that we can't bear to let go." In the present volume, people, places, dreams, memories are explored again-always in search of the poet's self. Hugo for many years directed the creative writing program at the University of Montana. He died in 1982.