cover image Upgraded to Serious

Upgraded to Serious

Heather McHugh, . . Copper Canyon, $22 (85pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-306-2

McHugh's eighth book finds this acclaimed poet as odd and entertaining as ever, with her trademark slippery associative lines and jagged stanzas (“The mystery of speaking every day/ So plainly from a face she cannot see/ Unsettles her...”), but also subtly sobered by growing older while living through the grim political climate of the last eight years. McHugh's short, jerky lines, odd rhymes, bemused gravity and slant perspective on the world at hand bring Emily Dickinson to mind. “The man of the moment would kill/ to be man of the hour,” she says in “Unto High Heaven,” a poem that seems to recall the Bush presidency and the rise of the Internet, which she touches on elsewhere in a poem that demands we “Webcam the World”: “Get all of it. Set up the shots/ at every angle; run them online/ 24-7.” Other poems try to make sense of life's little mysteries: “Through petri dishes' rings/ life is transmogrified. When we/ look into things, we see// there's space inside,” reads the entirety of “The Microscope.” McHugh remains one of our most important and unusual poets in a world where YouTube makes every experience fodder for entertainment and a person “cannot die again; and I/ do nothing but re-live.” (Oct.)