Muddy Matterhorn

Copper Canyon. Jun. 2020. 104p. ISBN 9781556595967. pap. $17.
In her latest collection, the first in ten years, McHugh (Hinge & Sign) explores culture and technology, philosophy and politics, love and divorce, and dozens of topics in her own inimitable way: “My semiotics are undone by Ambien./ The airs are not reliable./ I find my meaning stymied through/ the signage/ I’m addicted to.” McHugh’s poems can be biting and serious, even cerebral, but also riotously hilarious. In “Everybody Has a Fatal Disease,” she says, “In the night, while it’s quiet, I run/ some lips across its ribs, some eyeteeth over/ knuckle-bones, some mind downspine.” McHugh is especially good at wordplay, and rhymes are surprising, showing up in end rhymes, of course, but they can also be in the middle of the next line or stanza; as she explains, “We breathe because we rhyme.” When she needs to, she invents a word for the sake of the piece: “What could grow in summer// grew; it snew from Halloween to Easter.
VERDICT In a rich work that embraces life while pushing back on anything that restricts our reach, McHugh again proves herself to be a master poet
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