- Claire Summa
A reflection on one year with TDH
Hi, all. I’d just like to say thank you again to all our supporters. I have learned so much from this experience, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you all.
This film is not a biopic about Richard Hugo. Nor is it a last-ditch effort to save a local literary home. It is not an exposure of Seattle’s rampant gentrification, or the loss of the last of the West. It’s just not that simple. I remember sitting at the storyboarding meetings we had over Frances’s dinner table. Piecing in every story worth telling into the spine of the film would be impossible. Grappling with ideas that support each other is hard enough. Feeling the pressure to choose between conflicting themes seemed to discredit the entire point of the film, which to me is that it’s complicated. Our predominantly Caucasian film crew laments the gentrification of Seattle, a place we only feel ownership of because our pioneering ancestors took the land from its actual pioneers. Our ancestors swept through the region and placed themselves in the center, made themselves the protagonist of an ancient story they had no right to tell.
Richard Hugo was a great writer of the fullness in empty spaces. His “triggering towns” method sounds like a lonely one. I wonder how often the aftermath featured Hugo pouring emptiness into a glass at a town bar not his to define. Hugo did not own the stories made in these towns. Hugo’s writing matters because the struggles in these stories matter. He told stories about small places because small places matter. Erasure of a small town’s character in favor of chain store expansion is not far off from gentrification of an urban neighborhood. Cost of living does not correlate with the worth of a life. And so, we recognize Richard Hugo. I think it’s fairly obvious from my previous posts (see below) that I’m not exactly his biggest fan. But if there’s one lesson I can take away from this position, it is the importance of persevering to understand art inspired by the other side of the coin.
So, chasing the narrative of our film while minimizing bias is complicated. The least we can do is our best to tell the full story, even if its edges are polarizing—something increasingly difficult to do these days. I for one look forward to taking in all the art inspired by the events of the coming years. Art that will start conversations, building bridges we can one day cross. Or at least see across.
Thanks for reading, and for supporting this great crew!
Links to my past posts:
Richard Hugo and Montana: It's Complicated
Debriefing the Philipsburg Pilgrimage
Epilogue/Prologue: A Reflection
Lori Goldston says goodbye to Hugo House, her way