By Richard Hugo
Richard Hugo, whom Carolyn Kizer has called" probably the most passionate, vigorous, and sincere poets living," the following deals a rare selection of new poems, every one a "letter" or a "dream." either letters and goals are designated manifestations of alone-ness; Hugo's specific senses of alone-ness, of areas, and of different everyone is the forces in the back of his distinctively American and more and more authoritative poetic voice. every one letter is written from a particular position that Hugo has made his personal (a "triggering town," as he has known as it in different places) to a chum, a fellow poet, an outdated love. We learn over the poet's shoulder because the city triggers the mind's eye, the friendship is re-opened, the poet's selfhood is explored and illuminated. The "dreams" happen all of sudden (as desires do) one of the letters; their haunting photos provide extra intensity to the poet's exploration. Are we overhearing them? who's the "you" that goals?
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Extra resources for 31 Letters and 13 Dreams: Poems
The space which the poem does chart in contrast to the title’s suggested destination is entirely liminal, less a place properly speaking than a passageway between: an apartment staircase figured as the path up from Hell, traversed not only by Orpheus but also by postmen and butterflies (the latter a frequent symbol of the soul’s progress through eternal realms), as the opening lines tell us: The stairs upstairs were stairs For the sake of ceremony If Gertrude Stein had tried them on tiptoe She would not have reached the 2nd floor.
The bastards / On the other side of the paper / Keep laughing. / Listen. / Stop laughing. / The poem isn’t over” (CP, 70). Interestingly, the laughter from the other side of the paper is only accepted when the poem is indeed over, and at a moment where it hardly seems a likely response: Deny The bloody motherfucking Holy Ghost. This is the end of the poem. You can start laughing, you bastards. This is The end of the poem. indd 40 07/12/2012 13:29 The Early Poetry 41 of a poem that only keeps asking to go on, and that finishes reluctantly and with an air of defeat, as if unable to hold out any longer against a burgeoning laughter that we bastards are unable any longer to suppress.
This also allows a further spatialization of the erotic mappings which occupied him from the start: labyrinths, seascapes, song, and maps are increasingly supplemented by letters, radio waves, and ghostly visitations. As we shall see in the next chapter, Spicer’s sojourn in Boston in 1956 was decisive for the next phase of his poetics, and not least his intense engagement with the poems, letters, and manuscripts of Emily Dickinson, some of which he consulted in the Boston Public Library, where he worked from autumn 1955 until he was fired in November of the following year.
31 Letters and 13 Dreams: Poems by Richard Hugo