Richard Hugo was born in Washington State in 1923. He served in World War II, earned Creative Writing degrees at the University of Washington, and worked as a technical writer for Boeing. In the 1960s Hugo began a nearly two-decade career of teaching at the University of Montana, and published several volumes of poetry and prose. In 1974 he married poet Ripley Schemm.
Hugo's poetry depicts open landscapes, gritty towns, and the marginalized people in them. He encouraged students to "[n]ever write a poem about anything that ought to have a poem written about it." James Dickey wrote that Hugo's poetry "lifts us into a realm where everything is of consequence." Selected Poems by Richard Hugo was Humanities Montana's One Book Montana selection for 2010.
While the settings in Hugo's poems are clearly drawn from actual locales, it is understood that the poems—including the places they depict—are ultimately the product of the author's imagination. The intent of this literary map is to enrich the reading experience by interpreting those places, not to render them literally or definitively.