The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs

Frances McCue
Photographs by Mary Randlett

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  • $30.00s hardcover (9780295989648) Add to Cart
  • Published: 2010
  • Subject Listing: Literature / Poetry; Pacific Northwest / Art and Culture; Art / Photography
  • Bibliographic information: 260 pp., 44 illus., 7 x 9 in.
  • Contents

Richard Hugo visited places and wrote about them. He wrote about towns: White Center and La Push in Washington; Wallace and Cataldo in Idaho; Milltown, Philipsburg, and Butte in Montana. Often his visits lasted little more than an afternoon, and his knowledge of the towns was confined to what he heard in bars and diners. From these snippets, he crafted poems. His attention to the actual places could be scant, but Hugo's poems resonate more deeply than travelogues or feature stories; they capture the torque between temperament and terrain that is so vital in any consideration of place. The poems bring alive some hidden aspect to each town and play off the traditional myths that an easterner might have of the West: that it is a place of restoration and healing, a spa where people from the East come to recover from ailments; that it is a place to reinvent oneself, a region of wide open, unpolluted country still to settle. Hugo steers us, as readers, to eye level. How we settle into and take on qualities of the tracts of earth that we occupy - this is Hugo's inquiry.

Part travelogue, part memoir, part literary scholarship, The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs traces the journey of Frances McCue and photographer Mary Randlett to the towns that inspired many of Richard Hugo's poems. Returning forty years after Hugo visited these places, and bringing with her a deep knowledge of Hugo and her own poetic sensibility, McCue maps Hugo's poems back onto the places that triggered them. Together with twenty-three poems by Hugo, McCue's essays and Randlett's photographs offer a fresh view of Hugo's Northwest.

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Frances McCue is a writer and poet living in Seattle, where she is writer-in-residence at the University of Washington's Undergraduate Honors Program. She was the founding director of Richard Hugo House from 1996 to 2006. McCue is the author of The Stenographer's Breakfast, winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. Mary Randlett is a Northwest photographer noted for her portraits of artists and writers. Mary Randlett Landscapes celebrates her photographs of the natural world.

"The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs offers a beautifully vivid and poignant meditation on the landscape of the heart and how we are shaped by the poetics of place."
-Kim Barnes, author of A Country Called Home

"This book.. is an astute psychological portrait of Hugo and a superb reintroduction to his work."
-Seattle Times, Seattle Times

List of Illustrations


¦Setting Out

¦White Center, Riverside, and the Duwamish


"West Marginal Way"

"Duwamish Head"

"Duwamish No. 2"

"White Center"

Along the Duwamish

Cataldo, Idaho

"Cataldo Mission"

Overlooking the Mission

Wallace, Idaho

"Letter to Gildner from Wallace"

The Last Stoplight

Dixon and St. Ignatius, Montana

"The Only Bar in Dixon"


"St. Ignatius Where the Salish Wail"

The Flathead Goes Home North Northwest

Milltown, Montana

"The Milltown Union Bar"

"Letter to Logan from Milltown"

"To Die in Milltown"


Under the Shadow of the Milltown

Walkerville, Montana / Butte, America

"Letter to Levertov from Butte"

Where the Poor Look Down Upon the Rich and Some People Dance the Cool-Water Hula

Philipsburg, Montana

- "Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg"

- Where the Red Hair Lights the Wall

Silver Star, Montana

"Silver Star"

Short Story in Silver Star

Pony, Montana

"Letter to Oberg from Pony"

Prose Poems in Pony

Fairfield, Montana


"High Grass Prairie"

Not This Town

La Push, Washington

"La Push"

"Letter to Bly from La Push"

The Last Places

Epilogue at Taholah, Washington


"Road Ends at Tahola"



"Displays how two poets, Hugo and McCue, and one great photographer may bring history alive in the imagination and create a unique contribution to the historical record."
-Daniel Lamberton, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Winter 2010/2011

"This book is a treasure, a big open car going far and wide to find the source of poetry. . . . The design of our experience is a rich ambidexterity: McCue reaches outward into the world by visiting the towns and observing them closely while reaching inward through her familiarity with the Hugo Archives and her own acute poetic sensibility. The result is a reading of the poems that is remarkable informed."
-Western American Literature

"As it explores-even bolsters-his mystique as the poet of the modern American West, it simultaneously critiques that romanticized vision. Its brilliant strategy is to complicate genre.... The photographs themselves are enough to recommend this gorgeously produced book. Often stark, these black and white portraits of places Hugo's poems memorialize illuminate skeletal glimmerings of towns...."
-Rain Taxi

"This is a book for people who love pilgrimage. Twenty-four of Hugo's best poems of place are sandwiched in between Randlett's photographs and McCue's tightly written, deceptively broad essays."

"Hugo's own story merges with McCue's observations and interviews with the poet's friends (including Lois Welch, Bill Kittredge and Annick Smith) in a way that adds texture, detail and insight to a journey that's both literary and deeply personal."
-Lively Times

"Whether you love poetry or just love to read of those pursuing their passions The Car That Brought You Here Still Runs by Frances McCue is for you."
-The Philipsburg Mail

"This is a book worthy of its subject: smart, beautifully written, with stark images and poignant reticences."
-City Living

"An audacious new book from the University of Washington Press offers one great way to mark April as National Poetry Month. McCue's book is an ambitious amalgam of intentions. There are components of homage, literary criticism, biography and anthology all relating to Hugo. There is significant environmental reportage inspired by Hugo's poetic observations. Lacing all this together is McCue's own memoir recounting road trips designed to trace Hugo's steps..Randlett's stark photographs drive the point home-Hugo found things to love in the unlikeliest places."
-Bookmonger, Bellingham Herald