Heather McHugh

From the moment you set foot in Seattle, you can feel it: art is everywhere.

The thriving arts scene is a priority in this city—in fact, Seattle has been recognized for having more arts-related businesses and organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Americans for the Arts. Poet Heather McHugh is one of the contributors to this creative city. Read on for a look at the city through her artistic lens.

Q&A with Heather McHugh

What brought you to Seattle?

I came as the Milliman Writer-in-Residence to teach poetry at the University of Washington’s extraordinary MFA program. I was also rounding out a family migratory route: my parents both grew up in British Columbia.

Are there venues or events you recommend for those interested in poetry?

YES! Start with the Roethke Reading at the UW every spring; or Hugo House on Capitol Hill almost every day; check out the listings at Seattle Arts and Lectures as well as Town Hall. And though there are many wonderful bookstores in Seattle, including Elliott Bay Books, only one bookstore is dedicated to poets and poetry only—and it’s a gem. It’s Open Books in Wallingford—and it is run by a couple whose dedication and gifts have made it known to poets and readers far and wide—some extraordinary writer is always browsing around in there on pilgrimage.

As a UW professor, do you have a favorite spot on campus?

Perhaps my favorite spot of all is the Henry Art Gallery, another real gem of a place for artists and arts-lovers.

If you had one day to show Seattle to a visitor, where would you take them?

Pike Place Market, the Ballard Locks, drive back through Wallingford (stopping at Open Books), head for the Japanese Garden in the Arboretum, go stroll around Madison Park, then head uphill to the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, and cap the day with a movie at the Harvard Exit cinema* on Capitol Hill. Just one of a dozen possible itineraries.

Is there one place in the city that represents “Seattle” to you?

Any of a number of wonderful restaurants and markets. The poet in me wants to remind you of Seattle’s anagram: it’s LET’S EAT!

*Ed note: after 47 years, the Harvard Exit ceased operations as a movie theatre, much to our dismay.  The historic building still stands.

Interview by Jess Van Nostrand, 2012.

Photo taken at Volunteer Park.



Heather McHugh reads her poems “Etymological Dirge” and “Curve.”



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