Heather McHugh is a poet and teacher and one of only two people to have won a Stranger Genius Award followed by a MacArthur genius award.
Heather McHugh is a poet and one of only two people to have won a Stranger Genius Award followed by a MacArthur "genius" award. Courtesy of Heather McHugh

Good morning.

It's Tuesday, April 14, and the weather report says blue skies for days. It's hard not to remember that 9/11 was a Tuesday, and that the skies were blue.

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"Time seems a little strange now," says the poet Heather McHugh in her message today.

"It's a weird time, in a way    the way    poetic time is. That sort of moment in which its subdivisions are not clear anymore. In many ways I've always been writing about our mortality..."

In her message, Heather explains the backstory of a poem from her new book, Muddy Matterhorn, to be published next month, and then reads it.

As this bio points out, Heather went to Harvard at 16, where she studied under Robert Lowell. She sold her first poem to The New Yorker at 17, though it didn't appear in the magazine until she was 18. Her books of poetry have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

They include Dangers (1977), A World of Difference (1981, look at that cover!), To the Quick (1987), Shades (1988), The Father of Predicaments (2001), Eyeshot (2004, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Upgraded to Serious (2009), and Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 ("Notable Book of the Year" by the New York Times Book Review).

If you like theater or mythology, you should read her translation of Euripides's Cyclops. "Based on the conviction that only translators who write poetry themselves can properly re-create the celebrated and timeless tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides," the publisher explains, this series "offers new translations that go beyond the literal meaning of the Greek in order to evoke the poetry of the originals."

Heather's first book in a decade, Muddy Matterhorn, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in May 2020. Some of the poems in it also appeared in a 2019 chapbook called Feeler.

As The Stranger wrote in a profile of Heather in 2007, "Her lines are packed and bright and good, and they like space. They have a way of meaning more than you think, of going deeper than you can see."


McHugh has taught literature and writing for over three decades. She helped establish the graduate program in creative writing at the University of Washington, where she taught from 1984 to 2015, inspiring a generation of Seattle's poets. She also teaches in the low-residency MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

She is the author of a book of essays about poetry that is a must-read, Broken English. If you want to read a book about what makes great poetry great, read that book. If you want to make Jonathan Raban light up at a dinner party, mention Heather's essay in there on Emily Dickinson.

Lately, she's been making new kinds of work: sound files, a few of which you can find here.

From 1999 to 2005, Heather served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2000 she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Look how gorgeous Muddy Matterhorn is:

You should preorder this.
You should preorder this.

We are honored to live on the shores of the Salish Sea with you, Heather.

Thank you for this reading.

Have a good Tuesday, everyone.



* *

Previously in this series:


Kate Wallichs message to the city on April 12.
Kate Wallich's message to the city on April 12.

Rebecca Browns message to the city on April 11.
Rebecca Brown's message to the city on April 11.

Lucien Postlewaites message to the city on April 10.
Lucien Postlewaite's message to the city on April 10.

Betty Wetters message to the city on April 9.
Betty Wetter's message to the city on April 9.

Amanda Morgans message to the city on April 8.
Amanda Morgan's message to the city on April 8.

Nancy Guppys message to the city on April 7.
Nancy Guppy's message to the city on April 7.

Jonathan Bisss message to the city on April 6.
Jonathan Biss's message to the city on April 6.

Chris Jeffriess message to the city on April 5.
Chris Jeffries's message to the city on April 5.

Lesley Hazletons message to the city on April 4.
Lesley Hazleton's message to the city on April 4.

John Rodericks message to the city on April 3.
John Roderick's message to the city on April 3.

Bill Cartys message to the city on April 2.
Bill Carty's message to the city on April 2.

Price Suddarths message to the city on April 1.
Price Suddarth's message to the city on April 1.

Kary Waysons message to the city on March 31.
Kary Wayson's message to the city on March 31.

Ellen Forneys message to the city on March 30.
Ellen Forney's message to the city on March 30.

Major Scaless message to the city on March 29.
Major Scales's message to the city on March 29.

E. J. Kohs message to the city on March 28.
E. J. Koh's message to the city on March 28.

Ken Jenningss message to the city on March 27.
Ken Jennings's message to the city on March 27.

Demarre McGills message to the city on March 26.
Demarre McGill's message to the city on March 26.

Lynn Sheltons Message to the City on March 25th.
Lynn Shelton's Message to the City on March 25th.

Timothy White Eagles message to the city on March 24.
Timothy White Eagle's message to the city on March 24.

Cookie Coutures message to the city on March 23.
Cookie Couture's message to the city on March 23.

Sarah Rudinoffs message to the city on March 22.
Sarah Rudinoff's message to the city on March 22.

John Osebolds message to the city on March 21.
John Osebold's message to the city on March 21.


Ben Gibbards message to the city on March 21.
Ben Gibbard's message to the city on March 20.

Nathan Chans message to the city on March 19.
Nathan Chan's message to the city on March 19.