The Cultural Resource Directory is the newest feature of the web presence of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition, and we are especially excited to have this resource to help us shine a light on the artists, writers, activists, and other cultural providers in our community. Certainly one of the most notable is writer, editor, and educator Richard Hague. I got the opportunity to talk to Richard Hague and gain a little more insight into his work and his singular northern Appalachian roots.
Richard Hague’s connections to UACC go back to the days of Urban Appalachian Council. Bonding with friends like Mike Henson and Pauletta Hansel as writers and as fellow travelers from Appalachia, Richard Hague found himself in good company. Within this context, Richard Hague began work with groups like the Southern Appalachian Writer’s Cooperative in the 1980s. As he told me, “there was a lot of political action going on. It was a great crucible for activists and artists working within Appalachian culture.” The line between activism, advocacy, and art have never been distinct in the Appalachian tradition. The creativity of the writer and the artist are essential to political activists working to advance Appalachian culture.
Richard Hague is originally from Steubenville, Ohio. Steubenville is in the northern reaches of Ohio’s Appalachian counties and it is distinct in many ways from the rest of Appalachia. Richard Hague explains: “Steubenville saw the industrialization of Appalachia and this came to set it apart from other parts of Appalachia.” As a young man, Richard Hague left Steubenville and came to Cincinnati to study at Xavier University. This marked a break with his childhood home. The way he tells it: “I went back to Steubenville every summer. Then in 1969, I didn’t.” The pull of home had lost its sway, and Richard Hague stayed in Cincinnati.
Over the years Richard Hague taught English at Purcell Marion High School. He was also the head of the English Department for many years. And Richard Hague wrote—he has written so many things and published in so many places that I could not begin to list them here. Perhaps most notably right now is his work writing and editing for Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the journal published by the Southern Appalachian Writer’s Cooperative, and for Still: The Journal. These are two powerful publications giving voice to the Appalachian writing community.
Richard Hague is Artist-in-Residence at Thomas More University where is also conducts the Writers Table in the Creative Writing Vision Program. He also conducts other creative writing activities in the greater Cincinnati area and beyond. Though retired from teaching high school, Richard Hague appears to be more active than ever.
I will confess a fondness for Richard Hague’s writing. His poetry and prose frequently speaks a language of dark nights, of a certain wildness that gets tempered by the unlikely accident of surviving our own wild impulses that I completely identify with, having survived myself in the most unlikely ways. For example, his poem “Farewells,” which appears in Still, personifies the dark in terms that are romantic as in a lover and romantic as in the poetic tradition that stretches back to the 18th Century:
Dark, we had some times,
fishing by the river in midnight fog,
kissing by the fire, talking
to the winos who wandered around in you,
bumming quarters and
looking for the Big Rock Candy Mountains.
These lines and images place us in the Appalachian imagination with the Big Rock Candy Mountain as much as they cross time and community with the high Romantic image of the “dark” as a lost love. I read Richard Hague as an urban Appalachian writer who speaks a literary tradition that goes far beyond any single community or genre, and one can easily make the case that one of the most forceful achievements of Appalachian writers is to re-shape the literary landscape in ways that render Appalachian culture indispensable to American literature.
It was his involvement with the Appalachian writing community that really brought his own Appalachian identity into focus. As Richard told me, “It was at the Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia that proved to be a long overdue homecoming for me. Until then, I always thought I was from the border of Appalachia.” It was with this realization that Richard Hague finally came to understand that “industrial northern Appalachia was a fertile ground for a writer. There are so many landscapes to capture.” With this, Steubenville and northern Appalachia came back into focus.
Richard Hague continues to be a prominent voice of and for Appalachia. His work and commitment to Appalachian issues spans over 45 years. Still in all, Richard Hague is humble about things: “I live a pretty conventional life. I’ve been a teacher and writer, and editor. I’m still deeply involved with SAWC. And I remain Editor Emeritus of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel.” Most recently, he was editor of Quarried: Three Decades of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. We would be hard pressed to understand contemporary Appalachian literature without considering the work of Richard Hague. We are also fortunate to count him among those who are deeply invested in the work of UACC. You can hear from Richard and other Ohio Appalachian writers in the virtual reading, Don’t Cry for Us, J.D. Vance on December 3.
The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is certainly thankful for his involvement over the years, and we are proud to feature him on the Cultural Resource Directory. You can search the Directory to see all the artists, writers, and activists listed and their profiles. If you would like to register with the Cultural Resource Directory, the link is provided below, simply follow the prompts at this link: https://uacvoice.org/signup/.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.