Daniel Hughes's final volume of poetry, written during his years of struggle with multiple sclerosis, displays his characteristic wit, intelligence, and imagination. While the poems in Ashes & Stars deal with themes such as love and mortality, the conflict between imagination and actuality, and the pleasures of the world around us, they are never somber or overly serious. Even the shortest ones have a wry comic sense. Additionally, Hughes's poems demonstrate a remarkably economical and precise use of language, without a wasted word in the entire collection.
Although the concentrated emotion of the poems may remind readers of Emily Dickinson and Robert Lowell, Hughes's poetic forms-quatrains, tercets, irregular sonnets, irregular rhymes-also illustrate the deep influence of the English Romantics, whom he championed throughout his academic career. In addition, many poems draw inspiration from numerous individuals and works of art from the Italian Renaissance, as they weave abstract themes from Western culture with the sensual data of the poet's experience. Despite these deep historical and literary roots, the conversational tone of Ashes & Stars ensures that it is never dry or academic. The poems speak to the reader as to an intimate, giving a sense of transmitting hard-earned experience and knowledge. All readers will appreciate the passionate energy and worldly air of these unique and exactingly honest final poems.