Richard Hugo’s Poetry

I just finished reading through Richard Hugo’s Selected Poems, and the collection is an excellent one. I love the sense of place in Hugo’s poems, whether he is out in nature fishing, or sitting in a small town cafe, or writing about his travels in Italy, or describing his life in Montana. In “Letter to Kizer from Seattle” he writes about “the primal source of poems: wind, sea / and rain,” and while as a city person I am not especially enamored of nature, I appreciate the way Hugo speaks about it in his poems because it is always a specific place rather than a general force. I can always visualize the nature in his poems, unlike its depiction in the work of other nature poets such as Galway Kinnell or Mary Oliver. I like many poems in the collection because they evoke place so well, even when they are about other subjects. For instance, “Letter to Kathy from Wisdom” is a love poem, but it is inspired by “this town I’m writing from, where we came lovers years ago to fish.” “Kennedy Ucciso” is about John F. Kennedy’s assassination on the surface, but really it is about being an American who feels like an outsider in Italy. Hugo’s poems pay homage to their settings, showing that geography can be just as important in poetry as it is in fiction.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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