Cover image for The father of the predicaments
Title:
The father of the predicaments
Author:
McHugh, Heather, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Nanover, NH : Wesleyan University Press ; Hanover, NH : University Press of New England, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
vi, 80 pages ; 24 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780819563866

9780819563750
Format :
Book

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PS3563.A311614 F38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Whether sorrowful or sassy, the poems in this new collection bear McHugh's signature: a lively love for the very language she bewares.


Summary

Available now in paperback, The Father of the Predicaments is Heather McHugh's first book since Hinge & Sign was selected as a National Book Award finalist and chosen a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. In this witty and deeply felt collection, McHugh takes her cue from Aristotle, who wrote that "the father of the predicaments is being." For McHugh, being is intimately, though perhaps not ultimately, bound to language, and these poems cut to the quick, delivering their revelations with awesome precision


Author Notes

HEATHER MCHUGH is Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence and Professor of English at the University of Washingotn in Seattle. She also regularly reaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Warren Wilson college, near Ashville, N.C. She is the author of five books of poetry: Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993(Wesleyan, 1994), Shades (Wesleyan, 1988), To the Quick (Wesleyan, 1987) A World of Difference (Houghton Mifflin, 1981), and Dangers (Houghton Mifflin, 1997). She has translated three volumes of poetry: Because the Sea Is Black: Poems by Blaga Dimitrova (with co-translator Nikolai Popov, Wesleyan, 1989), D'Apres Tout: Poems by Jean Fallain (Princeton, 1982), and Glottal Stop: 101 Poems by Paul Celan (with co-translator Nikolai Popov, Wesleyan, 2000). In 1993, Wesleyan published her literary essays, Broken English: Poetry and Partiality. Her version of Euripides' Cyclops (with an introduction by David Konstan) is forthcoming in a new series from Oxford University Press. Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993 was named a finalist for the national Book Award in 1994. Glottal Stop: 101 Poems by Paul Celan won the Griffin Prize in 2001. In 1999 she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bright rhythms, pointed rhymes and dazzling surfaces distinguish McHugh's poems, which tease their language to the ends of wit: "I tell you outright,/I'm a neitherer. But what are you? You are a bother." McHugh's sixth collection follows her new and selected Hinge & Sign (a National Book Award finalist), and continues her pithily specific explorations of general human conditions: being, thought, life, death, time. The opening "Not a Prayer" demands of the poet "every surge of language, every scrap and flotsam" she has at her command, as she searches for meaning in the death of a septuagenarian, mother-like figureÄ"a nomen always aiming/ for amen." In the title poem, the "Father" visits each "Predicament" at night, like a parent checking sleeping children, "train[ing] us in the virtues we most lacked." Her M”bius strip-like sentences double back on seemingly obvious meanings and sound patterns ("To what high end/ the spondee's spasm"), daring us to give up on them. Yet the jokes work to draw us in. She writes of a bather's poitrine: "This was mesmer/ to terrify mortals: and so/ from the calm corroborate tubworlds/ she climbed out, bore her own dead weight again, took on the old/ mundane emergency: the world/ at large, its separations/ hefted." The construction of such poems, and of the opening tour de force, displays McHugh's Dickinsonian, saving restlessness: she can't stop looking for self-undermining meanings within the clearest of statements. McHugh's best poems are both comic and profound: their depth comes from the belly laugh of the Medusa. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

National Book Award finalist McHugh tackles caregiving for a dying relative, the moon, love, the self, sex, and subjects not readily discernible in poems that focus too much on wordplay and too little on emotion. At times her work moves toward parody, as in "Neither Brings Charges": "When someone barks out/ Author! authorÄthinking thinking's/ in the wings, however far the furor goes/ no star will come: only a fever." "Not a Prayer," a long poem about a relative's death, has some nice moments: "The dining room's become/ a mill of business, wheel of paperwork and news./ In short, it has become the outside world." Mentioned too in this poem is the title phrase: "The father of the/ predicaments, wrote Aristotle's translator, is being." McHugh is a modernist and an extremely cerebral poet, so these poems will not please everyone, but readers interested in language poetry will find poems of interest here. For academic collections and libraries where McHugh has a following.ÄDoris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Bright rhythms, pointed rhymes and dazzling surfaces distinguish McHugh's poems, which tease their language to the ends of wit: "I tell you outright,/I'm a neitherer. But what are you? You are a bother." McHugh's sixth collection follows her new and selected Hinge & Sign (a National Book Award finalist), and continues her pithily specific explorations of general human conditions: being, thought, life, death, time. The opening "Not a Prayer" demands of the poet "every surge of language, every scrap and flotsam" she has at her command, as she searches for meaning in the death of a septuagenarian, mother-like figureÄ"a nomen always aiming/ for amen." In the title poem, the "Father" visits each "Predicament" at night, like a parent checking sleeping children, "train[ing] us in the virtues we most lacked." Her M”bius strip-like sentences double back on seemingly obvious meanings and sound patterns ("To what high end/ the spondee's spasm"), daring us to give up on them. Yet the jokes work to draw us in. She writes of a bather's poitrine: "This was mesmer/ to terrify mortals: and so/ from the calm corroborate tubworlds/ she climbed out, bore her own dead weight again, took on the old/ mundane emergency: the world/ at large, its separations/ hefted." The construction of such poems, and of the opening tour de force, displays McHugh's Dickinsonian, saving restlessness: she can't stop looking for self-undermining meanings within the clearest of statements. McHugh's best poems are both comic and profound: their depth comes from the belly laugh of the Medusa. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

National Book Award finalist McHugh tackles caregiving for a dying relative, the moon, love, the self, sex, and subjects not readily discernible in poems that focus too much on wordplay and too little on emotion. At times her work moves toward parody, as in "Neither Brings Charges": "When someone barks out/ Author! authorÄthinking thinking's/ in the wings, however far the furor goes/ no star will come: only a fever." "Not a Prayer," a long poem about a relative's death, has some nice moments: "The dining room's become/ a mill of business, wheel of paperwork and news./ In short, it has become the outside world." Mentioned too in this poem is the title phrase: "The father of the/ predicaments, wrote Aristotle's translator, is being." McHugh is a modernist and an extremely cerebral poet, so these poems will not please everyone, but readers interested in language poetry will find poems of interest here. For academic collections and libraries where McHugh has a following.ÄDoris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.