cover image Hinge & Sign

Hinge & Sign

Heather McHugh. Wesleyan University Press, $18.95 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-1216-1

McHugh ( Broken English ) is a cerebral writer whose thinking maintains a dialectical tension with her choice of words and forms--they challenge one another. How generic a description that sounds; and yet, McHugh is anything but generic. The words and forms? They tend to be jauntily fastidious, calling to mind something of the steeliness (and the corners cut, in fun and in earnestness) of Emily Dickinson, while also summoning up a sure sense of jazz. The poetry seems to be a zealously crafted improvisation. And while her very gift for crafting can occasionally crimp or overtake play of mind, most of McHugh's poems are large in manner and in matter, forward-thrusting songs, whether they concern the infinitive ``to have to''; a protracted death that is ``unspeakable'' (but marvelously spoken of); or McHugh's coiled, frontal version of an ars poetica . It's good, now, to have more of her: here, 24 new poems, along with generous selections from five previous books. ``The edges of the said / so long and so / perversely have/attracted me,'' she writes; her work is a testing ground of edges, allegiances and resistances. (May)