One of the first critical essays I ever read was The Triggering Town by Richard Hugo. (You can buy it here for $1 !) …It was brought to me in my first writing class taught by BJ Ward…this essay and then the rest of the book of essays have been with me ever since and I read it at least once a year to refresh myself on things….this book has been a big influence when choosing pieces for The Idiom and a lot of little hints about quality writing come from this book.
In It Hugo compares each piece we write to its own triggering town and his advice focuses around treating your pieces like a town….Here is a link to the introduction of the book which is the essay I received in that class….Read it slow, absorb every paragraph and relate to it…..
Later in the book Hugo has a chapter called, Assumptions…He starts it like this….
Assumptions lie behind the work of all writers. The writer is unaware of most of them, and many of them are weird. Often the weirder the better. Words love the ridiculous areas of our minds. But silly or solid, assumptions are necessary elements in a successful base of writing operations. It is important that a poet not question his or her assumptions, at least not in the middle of composition. Finish the poem first, then worry, if you have to, about being right or sane.
Whenever I see a town that triggers whatever it is inside me that wants to write a poem, I assume at least one of the following:
Then he lists a bunch of one liners….Here are some that I liked,
- The name of the town is significant and must appear in the title.
- The inhabitants are natives and have lived there forever. I am the only stranger.
- I have lived there all my life and should have left long ago but couldn’t
- The town is closely knit, and the community is pleasant, I am not a part of it but I am a happy observer.
- A hermit lives on the outskirts in a one-room shack. He eats mostly fried potatoes. He spends hours looking at old faded photos. He has not spoken to anyone in years. Passing children often taunt him with songs and jokes.
- The population does not vary.
- The population decrease slightly each year.
- No music
- Lots of excellent music coming from far off. People never see or know who is playing.
- Dogs road the streets.
- The town doctor is corrupt and incompetent.
- No snow
- Lots of rain
- The jail is always empty
- The team is in last place every year
- People sit a lot on their porches
This isn’t the complete list but what stuck out to me as I flipped through the chapter….Check out the introduction and if you have any thoughts or comments or anything post them here….and hopefully you got something from this….