Friday, March 31, 2006

My most recent reader's journal focusses on Richard Hugo's Driving Montana. I won't reproduce much from the journal here, but I did want to post the poem.

On the surface, it reads like a poem about traveling the open road – accompanied by thinly veiled sexual allusions: "The day is a woman who loves you. Open" (1). Three verse paragraphs loosely organize themselves around the experience of driving. Ho hum. But then there are lines that stand out, like "you recreate the day" (12) and "the soft brown forms of far off bison" (19). And then you notice that last one was a wonderful combination of soft ‘b’ and ‘f’ sounds. And you notice that Hugo is playing with the vowel sounds in the line. And then you wonder how you missed it the first time.

Hugo also makes good use of punctuation, especially dashes and question marks. He introduces the image of "a runaway horse" (14), but does so in the form of a question. The image flits by quickly and is succeeded by another question. It is in this section of the poem that Hugo has us questioning the nature of memory, suitable for a verse filled with question marks. The white house, the bison, the creek were all familiar to the speaker, but they did not really inhabit his/her memories.

I could go on, but I think that's all I'll say about it right now. Enjoy.

Driving Montana by Richard Hugo

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.


At 7:25 AM, Blogger kaleidoscope said...

WOw, I had never read this poem before, and I am not familiar with Richard Hugo at all. I really feel lost (pleasantly) in this world he has drawn: in the car, driving alone, feeling strange nostalgia when looking at places you've probably never even seen. I don't really understand why the day has to open like a girl though; yet it is so physical- I understand loosely what he means. I love what you have pointed out about it: the question marks questioning memory for example. And I DID NOT notice the sound play; perhaps because it sounds so perfect. He makes poetry look easy. Thanks for posting this poem.


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