Somewhere between 1973 and 1974 while at Washington State University, I had an opportunity to be in a master class, a workshop, with poet Richard Hugo. He had come to WSU at the invitation of poet in residence G. S. Sharat Chandra. I was working for the college radio station KWSU AM at the time. I was also one of Sharat's students for three years. Having purchased several reels of new tape and borrowing a reel to reel recorder from the station, I took them to the workshop to record the event. Those two reels were filled with questions and answers, comments, and so many statements by Mr. Hugo. From those tapes I created a "feature" that played on NPR's All Things Considered for which I was paid, a wonderful thing for a poor broadcast student. Mr. Hugo had been nominated for the National Book Award that year for his book, "The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir."
Those tapes went with me wherever I went and ended up in my "stuff" in Rapid City, South Dakota.
As I had known he had passed away some years before, I wrote to the English Department at The University of Montana where Mr. Hugo had been poet in residence. Asking them if they wanted the tapes, I received a very effusive letter saying that they'd love to have them. Their thank you letter indicated that these recordings were the only recordings of his voice in existence. I've repeated that information for years being proud that I recorded that workshop.
I stand corrected because there are now videos on Youtube with his moving image and the sound of his voice....including his reading his poems. There had been no reason for me to search the Internet for videos of Mr. Hugo. I shall not repeat that foolish statement again. There are recordings of his voice. And his voice is as I remember it's warm sound. Please, to all those to whom I said my recordings were the only ones, please accept my apology. I am very happy to have memories of meeting him, hearing his poems in a reading I did not record, and being able to be in that workshop. I also have memories of sitting near him getting advice and comments from him about my future as a poet. I hope I live up to Richard Hugo's suggestions for a life in poetry.
One only has to search his name on Youtube and up pops listings for 6 or 7 videos including a lengthy video featuring him reading, teaching, and traveling around Montana. (Sidebar: I have a poet friend in Rapid City, Mike Forette, who studied with Mr. Hugo at the University of Montana...and I'm just a touch jealous of him having had that lengthy experience.)
While Richard Hugo is often considered a "Northwest poet"...what is really true is that he is one of the great American poets of the 20th Century. He did not live long enough to give us even more of his humanity and voice.
Barry G. Wick
Enjoy a Petite Retreat at Home
1 year ago