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.
"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."
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:
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: