DANGERS by Heather McHugh


Email this review


A kind of sensual irony--the irony of a tongue that knows how to speak but wants to touch, as well--cuts across everything in the poems of Heather McHugh: across imagery caught in the process of making patterns that seem inevitable; across nouns that double their meaning in the course of a line; and across the very conscious appropriation of musical rhythms into human speech. Many of these poems are about speech itself, about grabbing the fleshly root of the poet's language. When McHugh says, in ""Pupil,"" for example, ""Declining, I/ am single as the moon that sinks and climbs/ the walls. We keep refining grammars, keep/ our senses. Certain bodies make for certain tides,"" the double meaning of ""senses"" is anything but imprecise. Her images are as tangible and complementary as newly combined valences. The effect is like seeing language and the poet's different states of mind under the microscope: common events are full of delightful surprises. It's the way things happen that interests McHugh: ""Command, if you would have/ men rave or women howl, not words but ways/ to make words heave in rhyme. Not who/ but how you touch."" Heather McHugh's imagination is adverbial, fresh; her irony prods us, the images she makes move us, and first books of poetry as fine as this one keep us reading.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin