Writing center gets written on

On Saturday, hundreds of people flooded into the Hugo House to take part in a public celebration of one of the most important literary spaces in Seattle. Though the House will host a few more literary events between now and the old building's demolition, Saturday's party certainly marked some sort of an end. Someone described it to me as a wake, but that doesn't seem quite right; I've never been to a wake where they played AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" at high volume.

Everywhere, people were drinking way too much and writing on the walls in Sharpie. Some wrote personal reminiscences of their time at the House. Most people quoted favorite poems or authors: "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt," from Kurt Vonnegut, was a favorite. Lots of partyers quoted the building's namesake, Richard Hugo. Most were copying the quotes from their phones so the graffiti was surprisingly accurate and typo-free. There were shockingly few penises scrawled on the wall — I only spotted two — and sadly very few attempts to write fiction incorporating the surroundings. (I would have liked to see someone write a short story involving a door all around a doorjamb, for instance. But I suppose the raucous party might have interfered with the composition of fiction.)

Upstairs on one wall, Seattle cartoonist and Hugo House teacher David Lasky drew a nine-panel comic featuring portraits of Hugo House authors (Sherman Alexie, Stacey Levine, Octavia Butler) right next to a mural by his frequent collaborator and teaching partner Greg Stump. Someone wrote a fantastic riff on the Richard Hugo poem "What the Brand New Freeway Won't Go By" titled "What the Brand New Light Rail Won't Go By." The artist (and frequent House reader and collaborator) Clare Johnson drew a pair of gorgeous illustrations — an array of masked and caped underwater superheroes and a tree house on a rainy day.

Everyone got way too drunk way too fast. A few people talked about their excitement for the House’s temporary digs on First Hill, but for the most part, people couldn’t keep their heads out of the past. Which is exactly what the party was all about: it was a time and a place for mourning, for thinking back, for regretting, and for enjoying the good times. There’s plenty of time for tomorrow.

You can find my photo album of some of the writing on Hugo House’s walls right here.