Richard Hugo was an outsider. Born poor, abandoned by his mother, drafted to the War… Bill Bevis writes well about this in TEN TOUGH TRIPS, and other critics have seen it too. It’s a writer‘s game, standing outside a scene and then describing it. But, I don’t think it’s always a poet‘s game. Poets, typically, get enmeshed in their scenes. They sort of become the subject. Think of Plath as the tortured mother or WIlliam Stafford as the generous, plain-spoken everyman.
Then, you have Hugo. He can be sad-sack Hugo, or laughing Hugo, or river-loving Hugo– but he’s outside, trying to write himself into a bar, or a social scene, or a whole town, but it never quite aligns. He leans on the reader for companionship as he’s navigating. It’s as if he doesn’t quite trust himself.
But later, say in the 70’s, don’t the letter poems show how much of an insider he is? I mean he’s corresponding with all the big shots in poetry land; he’s unapologetic about using the stanza-less letter poem; he’s thrilled with his realizations of friendship and belonging. At that point, doesn’t the outsider stance turn away from itself and become more of a style than an ache?
Village Books in Bellingham is one great store: café above, discounts beneath, new books all around—it’s just the place to get what you need. Mary and I gave a reading there last week and we met some Hugo fans, some readers and our friend Ann Morris.
Ann is a sculptor with a beautiful gallery and Studio Grounds on Lummi Island where she displays work. In the “Sculpture Woods,” Ann has large scale bronze pieces. What I love about these large pieces is how they merge figures from classical myths with the local wildlife and embed these in human figures. There’s one called “Dance of Life” that presents a huge bull on standing on his back legs who is “goring” a woman by putting his head between her legs. It’s magical. Sexy, astonishing and strangely compassionate.
A lot of what Ann does has to do with scale. In her smaller work pieces, ones on display in the gallery, there are little boats with ribs for oars, bronzed replicas of whale and sea lion bones. One huge rib cage completely undid me. I wanted to lie inside of it. Two inch bones are blown to two feet long. She puts them upright and they are like giant femurs or stubby canes. I want to lean on them.
Here is an artist with lots to express and an outstanding sense of craft that carries the emotion right into your heart.