Richard Hugo Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Richard Hugo was born Richard Franklin Hogan, to Franklin James Hogan and the teenage Esther Clara Monk Hogan in White Center, a rough, shabby neighborhood of Seattle. At the age of twenty months, when his parents separated, he was left with his maternal grandparents, Fred and Ora Monk, although his mother tried unsuccessfully to reclaim him after she married Herbert Hugo, a Navy man. The boy, who admired his stepfather, legally changed his name to Hugo at the age of nineteen.

A bleak and impoverished childhood with his elderly, inarticulate grandparents left him with a burning sense of inadequacy. His grandfather, a failed tenant farmer from Michigan, was employed by the Seattle Gas Plant. Hugo believed that his strict grandmother, who had barely completed the fourth grade, was a bit crazy. He discovered that fishing (a love that stayed with him) gave him a sense of fulfillment, just as playing softball and baseball earned him approval and attention.

He volunteered for the Army Air Corps in December, 1942, to avoid being drafted into World War II. Based in Italy, he completed thirty-five missions as a none-too-accurate bombardier (he may have bombed Switzerland). After the war he returned to his grandparents’ home for three years, leaving only after his grandmother’s death in 1949. At the University of Washington, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in creative writing, inspired by the legendary poet Theodore Roethke.


(The entire section is 490 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Richard Hugo (HYEW-goh) is an American poet of the Pacific Northwest who considered himself a regionalist, yet he is read by most critics within the traditional context of mainstream American Romanticism. There is a strong sense of place in his poetry, but often the rural simplicity of his poems conceals the underlying emotional complexity. The literal settings suggest a deeper landscape, and at his best he writes like an archeologist of the mind.{$S[A]Hogan, Richard;Hugo, Richard}

Born Richard Hogan, he was abandoned by his mother and raised by his grandparents in a working-class community outside Seattle. His early sense of displacement and alienation is shared by many of the characters in his poetry. They, like Hugo, are survivors. Growing up in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, he became intimately acquainted with the spiritual and material impoverishment that ruined for a generation the hope of the American Dream. During World War II he flew thirty-five missions over Italy as a bombardier in the U.S. Army. By the time he returned to the United States, he had accumulated a wealth of raw experience, which was to become an essential component of his poetry, but it had yet to be refined by formal literary studies.

After enrolling at the University of Washington, he began to read widely. He was especially impressed with courses in poetry he took from Theodore Roethke, who was then just beginning to establish his reputation in American letters. Under Roethke’s influence Hugo learned to use his deep appreciation for nature as a source for images and inspiration in his poetry.

The romantic themes in his work appeared early in poems that recall an idyllic, rustic past set against the flimsy promises of an increasingly urbanized United States. Ironically, the best of his early poetry was written while he was working as a technical writer for the Boeing Company. It was during this period that he published “The Way a Ghost Dissolves” (1961), which was seminal in the development of his style and shows the...

(The entire section is 840 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Richard Franklin Hogan was born December 21, 1923, to Esther Clara Monk Hogan and Franklin James Hogan in White Center, a poor workingclass...

(The entire section is 413 words.)