Monday, April 18, 2011


The Triggering Town; Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing, by Richard Hugo, was published in 1979. Hugo, a poet who won several honors and who directed the creative writing program at the University of Montana , died in 1982. Recently, I came across his book and found myself stimulated by his commentary on the writing process.

Consider the following advice:

Once a spectator said, after Jack Nicklaus had chipped a shot in from a sand trap, "That's pretty lucky." Nicklaus is suppose to have replied, "Right. But I notice the more I practice, the luckier I get." If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don't work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

So, if you're like me and sometimes wonder why you spent two hours writing something that later seems less than stellar, Hugo's advice may provide the motivation to write without guilt about your unmade bed or your unmopped floor.