I have been a fan of Richard Hugo since I first picked up a copy of The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir, originally published in 1973. I was fortunate to hear him read his poetry at San Francisco State University, just after the book was published.
Sadly, he died in 1982 when just 59-years-old. It’s incredible that he could have lived to write at all, having flown 33 missions in Europe as a bombardier in WWII, for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Thankfully, though, he made it through the war. Selected Poems offers work from seven of his earlier books. One of my favorite poems of his, from What Thou Lovest Most Well Remains American, “The Art of Poetry,” is included in it.
Here is a sample of the wide range of distances and emotions he brings to the reader in that poem:
Envy your homemade heroes when the tide is low,
laughing their spades at clams, drinking a breezy beer
in breeze from Asia Minor, in those far far
principalities they’ve been, their tall wives elegant
in audience with kings. And envy that despairing man
you found one morning sobbing on a log,
babbling about a stuffed heart in Wyoming
Don’t think, Raymond, they’d respond to what’s
inside you every minute, crawling slow as tide.
Better not tell them. Better the man you seem.
Sad Raymond, twice a night the tide comes in.
I also recommend The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essay on Poetry and Writing, a an insightful collection of his beliefs.