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The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing
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The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,284 Ratings  ·  183 Reviews
Richard Hugo's The Triggering Town, originally published in 1979, remains one of the freshest and most refreshing treatises on the writing of poetry.

While you won't find formality or nicety here, Hugo has the unusual quality of being highly opinionated and yet not at all convinced that what works for him will work for you. Hugo doesn't believe that he can teach you how t
Paperback, 128 pages
Published August 9th 2010 by W. W. Norton Company (first published November 30th 1978)
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I want to write: that books about creative writing and the process of writing are stupid, are wasted breath, are an attempt at systemitizing something that is best left to its own devices.

I want to write: that my copy of this book is worn and yellow; that this book is treated like a bible by so many creative writing professors and boy, do I have the photocopied readers to prove it; that my heart sometimes hurts and I wonder if I'll die young; that I like wandering through cemeteries in the spri
"A lot of students today would rather not learn Milton than be made to feel inferior because they didn't already know his work. That makes academics sound petty. But damn it, some of them are petty." And damn it, what better way to have a resound of Hugo's voice and lectures, than through this single, cogent quote?
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the introduction, Richard Hugo observes that there is this "notion that the writer's problems are literary," which he counter-acts with his own theory: "In truth, the writer's problems are usually psychological, like everyone else's." This is the humble idea of the book. People aren't special because they are poets, poets are special because they are people. And Hugo spends his time exploring not just the poetic craft, but the emotional and psychological underbelly from which poems are birthe ...more
M. Sarki
Jun 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was included in a list I published for Christmas gifts. I named it one of the best books I had read in 2010. A name like Richard Hugo will not sound a familiar chord with young readers, will it? Even I never heard of him until I embarked on an extensive study of the works and life of Raymond Carver. Interesting story in itself, this study of Raymond Carver. You do know Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life has everything to do with that infamous literary giant by the name of Gordon Lish, don ...more
S.B. Wright
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of those books that came along at the right time for me. The more I engage with the study of poetry the more I learn the different ways you can approach poetry. The beginning chapters of the book were brilliant especially if you've been writing poetry for a couple of years and have the basics under your belt. The later chapters which were more autobiographical were interesting.
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
At turns humorous and serious, The Triggering Town is a mix of poetry advice, poet's experience, and poet's personality. A nice mix. I'll post some of his more interesting pieces of advice for writers of poetry soon. I tracked some of his "nuts and bolts" (read: rules of thumb) about poetry writing here:

If you write poetry, you might give them a look. Even these do not give his rules full justice, however, as I omit his elaborations and such. If you're a t
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i didn't realize how fucking brilliant hugo was. no wonder i like his proteges so much, william kitredge, jim harrison, james welch, m l smoke, ron carlson,....
Alec Lurie
Don’t waste your time. Here’s a quick summary:

“Poetry has no rules! Be bold and willing to fail! ...Unless your poems suck. Here’s a list of things that disqualify you from being a good poet...”
Best when it strays from its subject, which is fitting I suppose. Still, coming to it as I did out of concern over my bewilderment and skepticism about the act of reading poetry, I found it strangely disheartening that this book only confirmed my suspicions and forgave my ineptitude. Poems, for Hugo, are not about communication, at least not with others. He presents a moving depiction of the act of writing poetry as an engagement of and with that dark, elusive and inarticulable void most particu ...more
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read these lessons in one sitting. I'm incredibly thankful to my main poetry reader friend for introducing me to Hugo's essay "The Triggering Town." The first essay in this book "Writing Off The Subject" might be the most informative and inspirational lesson I've been taught about writing poetry well.

I recommend this book to poets who consider themselves a bit further along than "beginning," though of course, we're always beginning again and again. I say this only because Hugo's challenges and
Susan Toy
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is such a raw honesty to Hugo's writing, and to his instruction, that is very different and refreshing from many of the contemporary authors I've read in this past year or so. I knew of Hugo, because I had read and enjoyed his only mystery, "Death and the Good Life," when it was reissued posthumously by Clark City Press. This has remained one of my favourite novels since then and I reread on a regular basis. So, as soon as I discovered that Norton was reissuing "The Triggering Town," I sna ...more
Hank Early
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an odd and wonderful little book. A lot of insight here, not just for writing, but for life. My favorite bit:

"It doesn't surprise me at all when the arrogant wild man in class turns in predictable, unimaginative poems and the straight one is doing nutty and promising work. If you are really strange you are always in enemy territory, and your constant concern is survival."

Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
My husband thought it odd that I was laughing while reading a book on poetry. But Hugo is really funny! How refreshing. Very gratifying to hear him explicate ideas I had been mulling over much less eloquently (trying not to let it go to my head). My copy is a used one, marked up by the previous readers--at first I thought it a hindrance, but then I began to like it. Like reading it in a class, I got a couple other opinions on the book. A real treat.
A.M. O'Malley
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I never knew Richard Hugo was so funny. In the first chapter I knew I was in for a treat when he wrote of poems "Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication.If you want to communicate, use the telephone." He has proceeded to engage me and help me in my own path in writing. Definitely worth owning and marking illuminating passages.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Absolutely essential reading for poets and writers! Hugo offers a truly unique perspective that stands out from the many other "how to write a poem" books.
Shashi Martynova
восхитительная коллекция высказываний о поэзии и ее писании человека одновременно остроумного, великодушного и очень цельного. всю исчиркала карандашом. в каждом абзаце есть идеальные фразы.
Gary McDowell
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites
Getting ready to teach this.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: how-to
The exercise in Chapter 4 really did help me write one of my best poems.
Julie Christine
Blowin' my mind again. Review to come.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Richard Hugo inspires boldness, encourages perseverance, and promotes self-awareness in the pursuit of good creative writing in his craft book, The Triggering Town. As a prolific poet and professor, Hugo’s lectures and essays draw from his background in poetry, but when he writes “poet,” we can easily substitute “writer” because writers of all genres can learn from him. On the very first page of his book, Hugo writes about two attitudes all writers carry to the page: “all music must conform to t ...more
Ian Casey
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A poet is seldom hard up for advice. The worst part of it all is that sometimes the advice is coming from other poets, and they ought to know better.

Such is the amusingly self-aware advice offered by the poet Richard Hugo in this, his collection of essays and lectures about poetry and (mainly creative) writing. It's not intended as a structured textbook, nor is any advice intended as definitive. It's simply a diverse and thoroughly engaging collection of thoughts and insights into the subject fr
Brian Murray
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hugo's collection on writing craft and the life of the artist is not only peculiar, but almost singular in how contradictory it can be. It is a text constantly at odds with itself, but one that somehow makes its clashing lessons essential through its lyricism and ability to inspire rather than merely instruct. Definitely one of the odder books on writing, but one I can happily recommend.
An interesting little book that starts out feeling as if one is in a writing class and can be a little off-putting if one isn't really interested in being in a writing class, but I found it more interesting as it turned into more of a memoir and since I'm trying to learn about memoir writing, I found it interesting.
Savannah Porter
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
The first half of the book was fine - full of witty remarks about his (Richard Hugo) own style of writing poetry and a few notable lines of encouragement and advice. The second half was garbage. In other words, if you're really scraping for some sarcastic poetry advice, sure - read the first half of Richard Hugo's Triggering Town. If not, don't.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This got me writing poetry after the second chapter. The first several chapters are a wealth of ideas. Once I started writing, I looked at poetry in a new way. Hugo has a wonderful tone, he's fun and inspiring. He's a legit poet on his own too.
Ash Tray
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a big fan of poetry, but I have definitely learned a lot about life with it
Ingrid Nelson
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some very interesting things in this book, though the author seems like he was a very unpleasant and misogynistic person.
Wendy Wagner
A love story to words and to living and to being something more true than we usually get a chance to be.
David Olsen
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book on how (not) to approach poetry. Very helpful.
Lucy Hester
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and well-crafted essays. I enjoyed the read, but it wasn't the most helpful of poetry books I've read. Look at others first and then visit this one.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Richard Hugo (December 21, 1923 - October 22, 1982), born Richard Hogan, was an American poet. Primarily a regionalist, Hugo's work reflects the economic depression of the Northwest, particularly Montana. Born in White Center, Washington, he was raised by his mother's pare
“Assuming you can write clear English sentences, give up all worry about communication. If you want to communicate, use the telephone.” 15 likes
“In the world of imagination, all things belong.” 13 likes
More quotes…