"If McHugh is serious, she's anything but grim; with all her punning, bantering, and mock scolding of herself . . . she brightens the shadowy corners of her world with verbal pyrotechnics."—The New York Times Book Review
"Her poems are open, resilient, invisibly twisted: part safety net, part trampoline."—Village Voice Literary Supplement
This fast-paced, verbally dexterous book—honored as a "Book of the Year" by Publishers Weekly—"boils up and boils over" as it utilizes medical terminology and iconography to work through loss and detachment. Heather McHugh's startling rhymes and rhythms, coupled with her sarcastic self-reflection and infectious laughter, serve as both palliative and prophylactic in the face of human sufferings and ignorance. Being "upgraded to serious" from critical condition is a nod to the healing powers of poetry.
"Not to Be Dwelled On"
Self-interest cropped up even there,
the day I hoisted three instead
of the ceremonially called-for two
spadefuls of loam
onto the coffin of my friend.
Why shovel more than anybody else?
What did I think I'd prove? More love
(mud in her eye)? More will to work?
(her father what, a shirker?) Christ,
what wouldn't anybody give
to get that gesture back?
She cannot die again; and I
do nothing but re-live.
Heather McHugh is the author of a dozen books of poetry and translation. She teaches at the University of Washington and Warren Wilson College and lives in Seattle, Washington.