Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Frances McCue

The book starts out this way: "Richard Hugo visited places and wrote about them. He wrote about towns in Washington, Idaho, and Montana, and villages in Italy and Scotland. Often, his visits lasted little more than an afternoon, and his knowledge of the towns was confined to what he heard in bars and diners. From these snippets, he crafted poems. His attention to the actual places could be scant, but Hugo's poems resonate more deeply than travelogues or feature stories; they capture the torque between temperament and terrain that is so vital in any consideration of place. The poems bring alive some hidden aspect of each town and frequently play off of the traditional myths that an easterner might have of the West: that it is a place of restoration and healing, a spa where people from the East come to recover from ailments, that it is a place to reinvent oneself, a region of wide-open, unpolluted country still to settle. Hugo steers us, as readers, to eye level. How we settle into and take on qualities of the tracts of earth that we occupy -- this is Hugo's inquiry. From this vantage, we'll see how much more complicated, and how much more impoverished, the actual places are. Before his death in 1982, in a writing career that spanned little more than twenty years, Hugo published a book of essays, a mystery novel, and nine books of poetry, and all of them immerse personas into particular, named places -- most often towns."

Some forty years after Hugo visited the towns he wrote about, Frances McCue set out to discover those towns for herself. She made many trips, sometimes alone and sometimes with her husband, daughter, or dog. And finally, with photographer Mary Randlett, whose images appear in the book.

Hear what McCue has to say about why she became obsessed with Richard Hugo's poetry and the places he wrote about.

Listen to Chérie Newman's conversation with McCue on The Write Question: Thursday, June 3, at 6:30 (Yellowstone Public Radio) or 7:30 (Montana Public Radio). Or online anytime.

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The Write Question is supported in part by Humanities Montana, enriching intellectual, cultural, and civic life for all Montanans. And by the Montana Cultural Trust and public radio listeners.

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