Richard Hugo and Montana Roads

road leaving Beloit, WI

I just finished up a 20+ page portfolio for my creative writing class. Probably spent too way too many hours pulling it all together, but I had to free up all the head space certain characters had consumed in the last few months. I made the mistake of peeking back at it today only to find a slew of spelling errors and typos. But hey. Content’s what matters, right? Looking back through my writing, the same themes kept surfacing again and again. Bouquets, white walls, the word sea (not ocean), froth, and invisible walls. What a strange journey back my mind.

Our professor (the best) typed up an assignment/in class worksheet almost every day, so I never looked at the syllabus. But yesterday, in my happy happy purge of paper after submitting the portfolio, I came across the syllabus again, wrinkled and stained with something brown (hopefully tea). This time I acutally read it and found…..something GOOD.

A quote from Richard Hugo:

You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.

Than I read up about Hugo (1923-1982). He was a dark dude who slunk around backwater Montana (this might be everywhere in Montana) writing poems about people and places that might otherwise have been forgotten. His subjects are isolated, failing, and trapped in “boredom and rage.” But Michael Allen notes, “there is also a pervading sense of optimism, of an uplifting hope,” in his poems, as Hugo puts it, “that humanity will always survive civilization.” 

His poems remind me of the open spaces and gaps I had tried to convey all semester. Not sure if I was successful, but Hugo definitely was.

Here’s one of my favorites. Indulge in the escape of the open road if you can today! Over and out. It’s Wednesday Slumpday.


Driving Montana

The day is a woman who loves you. Open.

Deer drink close to the road and magpies

spray from your car.  Miles from any town

your radio comes in strong, unlikely

Mozart from Belgrade, rock and roll

from Butte.  Whatever the next number,

you want to hear it.  Never has your Buick

found this forward a gear.  Even 

the tuna salad in Reedpoint is good.


Towns arrive ahead of imagined schedule.

Absorakee at one.  Or arrive so late—

Silesia at nine—you recreate the day.

Where did you stop along the road

and have fun? Was there a runaway horse?

Did you park at that house, the one

alone in a void of grain, white with green

trim and red fence, where you know you lived

once?  You remembered the ringing creek,

the soft brown forms of far off bison.

You must have stayed hours, then drove on.

In the motel you know you’d never seen it before.


Tomorrow will open again, the sky wide

as the mouth of a wild girl, friable 

clouds you lose yourself to.  You are lost

in miles of land without people, without

one fear of being found, in the dash 

of rabbits, soar of antelope, swirl

merge and clatter of streams.

Montana morning. Check out for great Montana landscapes
Montana morning by Tau Zero.

Check out Tau Zero for more great Montana landscapes.


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