Hot Springs

Hugo, Richard

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: May-12-2003


The poem tells the story of one who travels to the hot springs seeking a cure for his chronic illness/disability. For 25 years the subject faithfully visits what remains of the opulent dream of spa-builders--a bubble that burst for both the entrepreneurs and their visitants. In the nearly deserted town, the poet's character continues to seek relief without success, yet he remains. The writer seems to be asking if it has become the search itself that keeps the sufferer alive; if he were to suddenly be made well perhaps he would lose everything in losing his familiar identity.


This poem looks at two faces of failed dreams: that of the human subject of the poem who has come to the hot springs seeking a cure for his unidentified pain and that of those who dreamed that there was a future in building a fantasy land of health in the middle of Montana in the 19th century. The town fails; the treatment for the poet's disability fails. Yet, in failure, perhaps there is an element of success. The perseverance of the man with the cane and the grin is mirrored by the relentless hope for ultimate success sustained by the few remaining citizens of the town.


Collection first published in 1973; The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir was nominated for the National Book Award.

Primary Source

The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir


Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press

Place Published