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"A Letter From The Hugo Residing In My Mind"

Richard Hugo
Poetry Dispatch

For the last several years, Robert Stubblefield has invited me to talk about The Write Question with students in one of the classes he teaches at the University of Montana. We talk about specific The Write Question programs students have listened to. Then I answer questions about the process of reading, interviewing, and creating programs for radio and the Web. I also invite each of them to send me an essay they've written in response to a writer they read during the semester.

The following essay about Richard Hugo was written by Sarah Shroyer.


A Letter From The Hugo Residing In My Mind

Because you haven’t studied and experienced poetry in all its forms and glory your opinion is not going to hold up. You are preached to in every class the importance of Montana Writers, as if literature from the rest of the world was never written. And since you’re never given the chance to miss Western Literature you find it boring, tedious, and undeserving of your time. You can respect the significance and the style but ultimately the beauty around you falls flat. It’s the “here and now” and all you want is the spontaneity of any time. That one night stand allure brought on by the upwards arc of a lip and the “right now” look in the eye.

While you study “dead guys” habitually you wonder how I am relevant. It’s because I still drift around all creative thoughts. Think of how we met, again, in your living room. I know you refused to acknowledge my presence for a while, but I finally got through to you. I still listen to your workshops, still a teacher speaking to you through You Tube. I am a distant influence in the physicality but omnipresent spiritually.

I saw your eyes roll and your lip wave over your protruding bottom jaw like an old trout from the thought of reading more from me. And you think you’re special now for writing this in my voice, but I was always a part of your voice from the first writing class you took. You all have a phrase or two from me embedded in your voice.

But I am pleased to see the lack of cringing from reading my essay. Although I agree with you that my delving into sexual desires was a bit raunchy, look at what you remembered, at what got my point across. I bet Lois made you feel a bit more righteous about our meeting here on the daybed of your neurons. I am in your head now, although I am not the same as the one who conversed with your predecessors. I am your own invention based on ink from a page.

So thank you for questioning my relevance, you seem to be coming over to my side. I respect you for going against the common consensus of my permanent institution in the West. And you’re welcome for putting you back in your place. For showing you I am a man of the human world, not just a poet on the wall of Western Literary Legends.

Signed:  Your Hugo

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Sarah Shroyer

Sarah Shroyer was born in California but grew up in Great Falls, MT. She began attending the University of Montana in 2012 and studies Creative Writing, Literature, and Irish. She currently lives in Missoula and works on campus.

Chérie Newman is a former arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. She founded and previously hosted a weekly literary program, The Write Question, which continues to air on several public radio stations; it is also available online at and
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