Questions for Bush

"Part of the reason that I sound slightly sleepy is because we did karaoke until two in the morning last night," Lyall Bush, Richard Hugo House's new programs and education manager, said the other day. (The entire Hugo House staff was there; Bush sang "We've Only Just Begun.")

Bush is Canadian, has a master's in American literature from Rutgers University, and is in no way related to the president of the United States. (He is, however, the vice president of the Northwest Film Forum board of trustees.) He's run Humanities Washington's programming for the last few years, lectured on literature through the Bard College Clemente Course in the Humanities, and taught film through the Seattle Film Institute (he credits Quentin Tarantino for bringing "the big speech back to movies"). It was after Hugo House's artistic director, Frances McCue, said "fuck" twice in his job interview that Bush thought, "Okay, I can work here."

Wait, you're Canadian?

I became an American citizen in 2000 to vote in the election. All the good that did me.

If you could program anything, and money was no object, what would you do?

I think it would be really cool to put writers of national reputation into rooms with people who never remotely imagined they could work with language.... Why shouldn't Toni Morrison come for a week? Why shouldn't David Foster Wallace come for a week? Their basic job would not be to be in contact with people who can afford to buy their presence, but to be in touch with people who can't. If you gave me a million dollars, I could make that happen. I may even be able to make that happen with $10,000, but that would mean a lot more sweet-talking.

One of the tensions at Hugo House seems to be about local writers versus national writers.

Well, yeah. I think that people write with sentences. I don't think that they write with, oh, rain.


I never have actually quite understood regionalism. If you're going to write about the sidewalk outside of where you work, how profoundly different is that sidewalk from a sidewalk in Chicago or New York or San Francisco? You're working with sentences and your own imagination. And in that respect I think that, if you're a good writer and you live in Tacoma, you're going to be a good writer if you happen to move yourself to Chicago.

Richard Hugo: Underrated? Overrated?

I think he's a really good poet.... I haven't seen the latest box scores on where Richard Hugo stands in relation to Jorie Graham, but my reading of him is that he is a very fine poet with a really good, playful voice. He's died recently enough that, in literature's terms, we're not going to know who he is until about 2050. We barely know who T. S. Eliot is.

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