Listen to Hugo read “The Milltown Union Bar” in this clip from Annick Smith’s 1976 documentary, Kicking the Loose Gravel Home: Richard Hugo.
Selected Poems: Milltown
from “The Milltown Union Bar”
You could love here, not the lovely goat
in plexiglass nor the elk shot
in the middle of a joke, but honest drunks,
crossed swords above the bar, three men hung
in the bad painting, others riding off
on the phony green horizon.
Hugo, Richard. Selected Poems. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1979.
About the Book
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 Poemsby Richard Hugo was Humanities Montana’s One Book Montana selection for 2010.
Several photos for this map were generously provided by renowned photographer Mary Randlett, and originally published in The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs: Revisiting the Northwest Towns of Richard Hugo, by Frances McCue.
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.
About the Author
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.