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December 14 , 2009

Upgraded to Serious


"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

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"Her poems are open, resilient, invisibly twisted: part safety net, part trampoline."-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.

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