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.
Tag Archives: Richard Hugo
Today I walked around downtown Boulder, Colorado with a colleague and several new friends as Rocky Mountain MLA wound down. We visited two excellent bookstores, Red Letter Secondhand Books (where they gave me my books in a recycled Borders bag! Independent bookstores forever!) and Left Hand Book Collective, a fantastic all-volunteer leftist bookstore (though I’d like to think that their name is inspired in part by Simon and Garfunkel’s “A Simple Desultory Philippic”: “I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed. That’s the hand I use… well, never mind.”). I bought the Atwood and Whitman at the former and the Marable and Hugo (half-price!) at the latter.
Atwood, Margaret. Dancing Girls and Other Stories. 1977. New York: Anchor, 1998.
I have an essay coming out on one of the stories from this collection, “Rape Fantasies,” but did not actually own the collection itself. I’ve been looking for a copy of it for a while, and this one is in good condition and was only $6.00.
Hugo, Richard. Selected Poems. New York: Norton, 1979.
I’ve enjoyed the Hugo that I’ve read in anthologies, and have almost bought his Collected Poems several times. I haven’t bought or read any poetry in quite a while, so I decided to finally break down and buy one of Hugo’s books since both the vendor and the price were right.
Marable, Manning. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. New York: Penguin, 2011.
Marable’s book has gotten excellent reviews (in fact, it won the Pulitzer) and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a while.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas. London: Everyman’s, 1912.
Whitman is one of my literary obsessions, and as such I own numerous printings of Leaves of Grass. This Everyman’s Library edition is aesthetically pleasing and includes an introduction by one of Whitman’s friends, Horace Traubel. It’s interesting to note that Whitman died in relative obscurity in 1892, but twenty years later he was already canonical enough for the Library to reprint his work.