Cover image for Eyeshot
McHugh, Heather, 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
54 pages ; 23 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.A311614 E94 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2004)
Runner-up for the ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year Award (2003)

Heather McHugh's new book, Eyeshot, is a brooding, visionary work that takes aim at the big questions--those of love and death. The poems suggest that such immensities balance on the smallest details, and that a range of human blindness is inescapable.

The power of this new work comes from its delicate yet tenacious fidelity to the ever-unfolding senses of sense. The poems invite the reader to follow careening words and insights through passages both playful and profound. Her "Fido, Jolted by Jove" reveals the tension endemic to both language and living: "the world itself is worried." Yet the same poem remarks the high price of any reductive fix: "a brain this insecure may need another bolt be driven in it." This movement between anxiety and the human compulsion for order informs Eyeshot's darkly comic, 20/20 acuity.

Author Notes

The author of six previous books of poetry, including National Book Award finalist Hinge & Sign (Wesleyan, 1993), Heather McHugh teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College; since 1984 at the University of Washington in Seattle; and, recently, at the University of California in Berkeley. She takes time off in Maine

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

With an oeuvre that includes criticism (notably the 1993 volume Broken English) and a wide-range of translation (most recently, of Euripedes), McHugh here returns to her own signature bravura and obsessive word play, focussing on the struggle of eye and mind, brain and body, to mediate the exacting details of an exquisitely overwrought world: "The mind is made/ to discipline the eye so that the eye/ can aim the mind-or else..." In a state of near-constant overstimulation, the hyper-attentive intelligencer at times must struggle simply to stay afloat: "Sight... sponsors far/ too much detail (exhaustive is exhausting!)." McHugh scrutinizes the lewd and the illustrious alike with relentless attention and propulsive wit, the latter no less engaged when describing the brain collection at Cornell ("Grown in a bone bin, now not one of them/ can let go of the knot at its gut, the fruit/ of its last thought") than when parrying bawdily on the subject of a hanged man's erection, in "Goner's Boner." Sexual mishaps, infidelity and lust abound-as well as related riffs on aging and physical decline: "taste took/ time, it seemed, and so required the mind// to mind the tongue, stop being young,/ start being tired." McHugh's more metalinguistic reflections can be strained or too clever, but many poems avoid these pitfalls, probing language in a way that enhances (and seems inextricably linked to) scientific inquiry: "The body's fingernails were tinily inscribed/ with symbols, letterforms and ideograms, and all/ in exquisite detail. I looked and looked..." Yet what pushes this book even further are the moments when the speaker's sense of the stakes comes into focus: "In sight/ of the flicker of living./ In spite of the looking to die." (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Invented words, surrealistic imagery, sexual innuendoes, quirky free associations of sound and sense sometimes suggesting profound truths: these are the hallmarks of McHugh's poetry. In her seventh book, McHugh (a National Book Award finalist for Hinge & Sign) writes mostly about dogs, sex, night, death, and fireworks, creating a frenetic energy by breaking rules of syntax. She finds words within a word: "My one/ and only: money/ minus one." She puts similar-sounding words together, "grandma thinks of love-and gets/ amen, a mensch, a mention." She makes nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, and otherwise mines verbal ambiguities-the title poem being a good example. Like the German poet Paul Celan (1920-70), whose work she has translated, McHugh writes in a kind of Rorschach inkblot style. But unlike Celan, whose poems come from the unutterable pain of the German death camps, McHugh writes from her middle-class American upbringing. With a few exceptions, McHugh's poems tend to fall under the weight of their own inventiveness. Recommended for academic libraries.-Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

World in a Skirtp. 3
Goner's Bonerp. 4
Fido, Jolted by Jovep. 5
Significant Suspicionsp. 6
Fourth of July, B.C.p. 7
Unhygienic Songp. 8
Letters, Numbers, Signs, Words Referred to as Wordsp. 9
Boy Thingp. 11
The Magic Cubep. 13
Impoliticp. 15
The Retort Roomp. 17
Samplingp. 18
Lectator's Songp. 19
Far Sightp. 20
Iquityp. 21
Four Commissionsp. 25
Songs for Scientists, Parts I and IIp. 25
Song for the Men of the Pennsylvania Hillsp. 27
Song for a Mountain Climberp. 28
Mankind's Pet, the Copycatp. 29
Four Poems after the Chinesep. 31
After Su Tung P'op. 31
After Li Baip. 31
After Wang Weip. 32
After Su Tung P'op. 32
Two Tunes for Elliottp. 33
Affinity Welledp. 33
One's Monsp. 34
Back to B.C.p. 35
Night Stormp. 37
Mind's Eyep. 38
A Dearth in the Dreamboat Departmentp. 39
Voiceboxp. 40
Pound Signp. 41
Long Shot with Shutterp. 43
Settling Songp. 44
Through (after Sully Prudhomme)p. 47
Blind Men (after Charles Baudelaire)p. 48
Out of Eyeshotp. 49
The Suicide (after Jorge Luis Borges)p. 51
The Lookerp. 52
Notesp. 54
About the Authorp. 55