Hugo House
The Hugo House Banner in Seattle, Washington © Author Adventures

Richard Hugo

Award-winning poet and author Richard Hugo (1923-1982) was born in White Center, a suburb of Seattle, Washington, before he eventually settled in Montana. His poetry led to nominations for a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, and he won a Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts. In his senior years, he was the editor of the Yale Younger Poet series.

According to poetryfoundation.org, “Richard Hugo was a poet of the Pacific Northwest, yet his renown attests to a stature greater than that of most ‘regional’ poets. He grew up in White Center, Washington, outside of Seattle. He served in World War II as a bombardier in the Mediterranean, and this experience informed some of his poems. Hugo studied creative writing with Theodore Roethke at the University of Washington, where he earned a BA in 1948 and an MA in 1952. After the publication of his first book, A Run of Jacks (1961), he started teaching at the University of Montana in Missoula, where he worked for almost 18 years.”

The “regional poets” refers to a group of established poets in the Northwest US. According to The Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington): “As the region’s premier teachers in the last half of the twentieth century, the poets Roethke, Stafford, Hugo, and Wagoner were responsible for much of the region’s literary maturity. Hugo and Wagoner were Roethke’s students; Stafford came to the Northwest about the same time Roethke did. When Richard Hugo began to teach at the University of Montana in 1965, he took Roethke’s style and his own reactions to it with him.”

He later returned to Seattle and passed away there in 1982, though he is buried in Missoula, Montana.

A bibliography of the author’s books can be found here: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/richard-hugo. Perhaps his most popular book is The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing.

Hugo House

Hugo House opened to the public in 1998 in the heart of Seattle, named for Seattle’s native son poet. It is a motivational and inspirational hub of writing creativity with an impressive docket of thought-provoking teen programs and events to cultivate the next generation of writers.

Its website, hugohouse.org, offers this description: “…a place for writers, with a concentrated focus on helping anyone who wants to write. We offer readings, classes, book launches, workshops, teen programs, consultations with professional writers, and much more. Our namesake, Richard Hugo, came from poverty and a broken family in White Center, but transcended his meager upbringing to become a nationally renowned poet.”

When touring Washington, check out the dates of upcoming events. Author talks may be paired with fine wine and light snacks. Arrive early to avoid lines and get the best seats. Books may be available for purchase and signing at the end of the event.

Hugo House
A panel of authors discussing their work at Hugo House © Author Adventures

You can read more about Richard Hugo through our Montana Author Adventures page.

If traveling south-north, Hugo House can be the final stop of our Washington Author Adventures Trail, particularly if you want to catch Peace Park during daylight. The timing of a visit naturally depends on which event you attend.

Patricia Smart