cover image Muddy Matterhorn

Muddy Matterhorn

Heather McHugh. Copper Canyon, $17 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-55659-596-7

McHugh (Upgraded to Serious) demonstrates in her playful and perceptive ninth book a penchant for rhymes and puns as she questions technology and urges the reader to look closely at exactly what she might not want to see, including “the terror in the mirror.” Over six sections, these poems, mostly one-to-two pages, though some as long as four, range from lighthearted and humorous (she urges the groom in “Epithalamium” “to keep [his] pecker in [his] pants”) to epigrammatic (“Best be humble since we can’t/ Tell much apart”). Twitter references, colloquial expression (“out with it” and “just come to grips”), and wordplay (“Get someone/ gunger-ho or gunga-dinner”) rub up against Yeats, Shakespeare, a hard look at dying (“It’s time to study/ What the dying do/ Who sob to laugh./ Who sing to weep”), and an even harder look at herself (“this muddy Matterhorn”). McHugh asks in “Long Enough”: “Just to be freed from greed,/ just to be un-timeshared,/ must the tender ones forever// live in hunger or in coldest/ solitude?” The answer for McHugh seems to be “no” as she urges “curiosity instead of greed,” offering readers an alternately whimsical and serious meditation on contemporary existence. (June)