hugo house timber curtain

Attendees packed the room at Hugo House’s temporary location at the Frye Art Museum last Thursday on an unusually warm day for the end of September. Despite the stuffy room, a sense of community could be felt as Frances McCue read from her latest collection of poetry, “Timber Curtain.”

McCue’s newest book of poetry, “Timber Curtain,” was released this year. The book is a companion to the film “Where the House Was,” a documentary still in production about the history and demolition of Hugo House. McCue was one of the three original founders of Hugo House. 

The book was intended to be the shooting script for the film, but then the project got too large. McCue described how the story’s focus developed from being about one place getting torn down in Seattle, to the gentrification of the entire city. However, she highlighted it was a happy story, because in the end, there were philanthropists behind the construction of the new building there to ensure the new Hugo House will have a similar feel to the original one. 

After the audience got to see a trailer of the upcoming documentary, McCue began to read poems from the book. She explained that a timber curtain is “the name given to a line of trees left after a logging sweep.” As she began reading, it was clear that McCue has been doing poetry for a long time. No one seemed to mind the hot room because of the power of the words being performed before them. 

For some historical context, Hugo House was founded by McCue, Linda Jaech, and Andrea Lewis as a place for writers. McCue lived in the house for a period of time, and her daughter grew up there. McCue also buried her late husband there, and so aside from the significance to the writing community, the place held significance for McCue personally as well. 

McCue’s poems feature erasure, mirroring the erasure happening in Seattle. She would read a poem, then show us a version where many words were blacked out to reveal a completely new poem. 

“Frances’s poems [are] so inspiring, [they] just come alive,” Bruce Rutledge, the publisher of the book, said.  Rutledge continued to explain that when he began, he was worried about publishing poetry, but now he can proudly say, “poetry speaks to me more than it ever has.”

“I was really eager to write poems that would help viewers of the film visualize some of the dynamics and stories of [what] went on at Hugo House,” McCue said in an interview. 

When asked about the new Hugo House, McCue said, “I’m excited about Hugo House because writing matters and people can meet across generations, ethnicities, and class backgrounds to write, and making certain that goes on is really important to me.”

Find a copy of “Timber Curtain,” published by Chin Music Press, at your local bookstore.


Learn more about Where the House Was at


Reach writer Ananya Garg at arts@dailyuw.comTwitter: @originalananya

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