Richard Hugo

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Richard Hugo (December 21, 1923 - October 22, 1982), born Richard Hogan, was an American poet. Primarily a regionalist, Hugo's work reflects the economic depression of the Northwest, particularly Montana. Born in White Center, Washington, he was raised by his mother's parents after his father left the family. In 1942 he legally changed his name to Richard Hugo, taking his stepfather's surname. He served in World War II as a bombardier in the Mediterranean. He left the service in 1945 after flying 35 combat missions and reaching the rank of first lieutenant.

Hugo received his B.A. in 1948 and his M.A. in 1952 in Creative Writing from the University of Washington where he studied under Theodore Roethke. He married Barbara Williams in 1952, the same year he stated working as a technical writer for Boeing.

In 1961 his first book of poems, A Run of Jacks, was published. Soon after he took a teaching job at the University of Montana. His wife returned to Seattle in 1964, and they divorced soon afterwards. He published five more books of poetry, a memoir, a highly respected book on writing, and also a mystery novel.

Hugo’s "The Real West Marginal Way" is a collection of essays, generally autobiographical in nature, that detail his childhood, his military service, his poetics, and his teaching. Readers should be more than a little skeptical of Hugo’s autobiography, particular since he is a poet who believes that “(In the poem) the fact that ‘suicide’ sounds like ‘cascade’ is infinitely more important than what is being said." Of course, it’s all true—but it might not be entirely factual.

Hugo remarried in 1974 to Ripley Schemm Hansen. In 1977 he was named the editor of the Yale Younger Poets Series.

Hugo died of leukemia on October 22, 1982.


  • A Run of Jacks (1961)
  • Death of the Kapowsin Tavern (1965)
  • Good Luck in Cracked Italian (1969)
  • The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir (1973)
  • What Thou Lovest Well, Remains American (1975)
  • 31 Letters and 13 Dreams (1977)
  • The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing (1979)
  • Selected Poems (1979)
  • The Right Madness on Skye (1980)
  • White Center (1980)
  • The Real West Marginal Way: a Poet's Autobiography (1987)
  • Making Certain it Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo (1984)

  • The Richard Hugo House - a Seattle non-profit that supports and educates writers
  • Richard Hugo’s Constructivist Moment: On The Triggering Town on-line essay by Joshua Corey on Hugo's poetics
  • Eat Stone and Go On - The Recorded Poetry of Richard Hugo
  • Kicking the Loose Gravel Home - A film by Annick Smith
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