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Eyeshot (Wesleyan Poetry) Paperback – 29 Dec 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press; New edition edition (29 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819566721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819566720
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,780,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


..". McHugh here returns to her own signature bravura and obsessive word play, focusing on the struggle of eye and mind, brain and body, to mediate the exacting details of an exquisitely overwrought world... probing language in a way that enhances (and seems inextricably linked to) scientific inquiry..."--Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

The author of six previous books of poetry, including National Book Award finalist Hinge & Sign (Wesleyan, 1993), Heather McHugh teaches in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College and since 1984 at the University of Washington in Seattle. She takes time off in Maine.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
"Only real/ love-moans, and wonders un-translatable" 26 April 2005
By Ivy Kleinbart - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Eyeshot. Earshot. Snapshot. I shot. Eyes shot. eYes... hot. Heather McHugh's latest book is--aye--hot. Written toward a readership as enamored with language as she, Eyeshot (exa)mines language at the level beneath ordinary diction for its twinkling possibilities, its intersections, its coincidences. McHugh's poetry recognizes (and flowers forth from) root alphabetic patterns and cadences in the music of her own speech: puns, anagrams, homonyms, iambs, internal and end rhymes, words spelled backwards that make other words, words contained within other words, words suggested by other words. Pupils. Blind dates. An "eye-gulp" (seen in a flash as "eye-plug"). As lush and seductive as the "purple burning overspill[ing]/ the porch-side torches of the lilac," McHugh's voice at once defies boundaries and leverages traditional form to accentuate sound, sight, and meaning.

In fact, she seems just as interested in what the eye and ear can do with language--how they receive and process linguistic information through distortion, dissection, truncation, and recombination--as with the understandings that emanate organically from such radically experimental seeing and hearing. Her poems are not self-consciously epiphanic, rather exploratory, inquisitive, ironic, and progressive in the most literal sense: that is, they arrive at meaning through a progression of linguistic play and connections. For example, the simple phrase "You're your/ own owner, no?" opens into much more than a cute case of phonic repetition and reversal, where the ghosted "know"--do you know yourself?--inherits its semantic weight from the visual and aural convergences in these two lines.

While many of her poems deal seriously with such themes as love, displacement, and death, humor is the overarching characteristic that sustains McHugh's elaborate project: "Somebody spell us! Help!" Accident and absurdity seem to govern her universe. Bird calls are deciphered in the most outlandish ways: "Potato chips!", "Who cooks for you?" and "Quick, quick, give me the raincheck!" And who else would address a brain in a jar, outrageously, as "O single-minded/ one!" Still, McHugh's work remains grounded in poignant moments of arrival, where "on the one hand... in the scheme of things we matter/ marvelously little; on the other,... we are// the scheme of things."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Randy Dandy 18 April 2005
By Tuor - Published on
Format: Paperback
McHugh's "Eyeshot" is a jungle of puns, double-entendres, triple-phrase-turns and bizarre zingers. Its title alone announces the kind of humorous (though not exactly light-hearted) indeterminacy McHugh sets whirring to get her through each poem. This book is as entertaining and admirable an example of linguistic bootstrapping as any, as in "Iquity": "No need for misery: in cine-pop / a little extra nookie on the side; in cine-mom your / hubbie hurries home. (Hi, hon.) Your honor, honest, / is not implicated. Soothers / must, by definition, say / no terrifying truths." All McHugh needs to jump into higher gears is her ear and/or dictionary.

Few books of "serious" poetry inspire outright laughter, but be prepared for numerous outbursts: "I pray / this baby we are seeing walloped, wiped and winningly anointed, / turns out dumb as oakum-and more sinister. That way / he can crown a tranquil life by being / appoined a cabinet minister." ("After Su Tung P'o") McHugh is masterful at dropping in rhymes at just the right moment, and her aural/verbal play never takes a breather, much less a breath: "My one / and only: money / minus one. No noun / like a pronoun!-best of all / the jealous kind. Come, come, / company doll, cide with a coin, / one moan, one / more, honey / bunch." ("The Magic Cube") This is a poet for whom the materiality and cross-pollination of words is an endlessly amusing miracle.

Yet McHugh is equally in love with sight: "Years I poured it forth, without / a thought. To left and right / I sprayed the wide world's / spectacle. I made a blue / bird sparkle, and a red tree" ("Out of Eyeshot"). The blur of senses, the blur of seeing, and the blur of being form the central concern of this book. McHugh finds nothing so serious, either: "Downline, it's not / our substance pours away: / it is our shine." ("Mind's Eye"); "The world / itself is worried. Trees stand out, spectacularly / branched: the mind's eye grows alert: this thing / could hurt." ("Fido, Jolted by Jove") Perception shapes reality-and this cliché sheds its banality in McHugh's deft leaps. Not often does one encounter a book of poetry so saturated with exuberance, for language or for living.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Eye of the Storm 22 Feb. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Heather McHugh has always taught us to see differently, even when we didn't listen. These are her sexiest poems to date, touching in places ("Is love // only cupidity? (In a silver twist, / a spire's unfixed. Now it's a spear.)"), and downright baudy in others (I'll let you find those on your own). Her taste for word-play is inexhaustibly sophisticated and very often hilarious ("God, your zip code / keeps eluding me. Oh one, / oh one, oh one..."). If I didn't know better, I'd say I smelled a masterpiece. Heather McHugh, "[you] did what [I] / [wasn't] there to do. // [You] took my breath away."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Shot in the I 22 July 2004
By Re-Reader - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Heather McHugh fascinates and astonishes. She is one of the best poets writing today. There is nothing fascile or cliched here, these are poems to be read and re-read. Each reading will take you farther, and there's such a long way to go with a McHugh poem. If you're browsing for a place to start with this extraordinary poet, stop right here and add this book to your library. Better yet, buy it with her selected Hinge and Sign, where you'll get a sampling of the life's work of this American original. Eyeshot is more intoxicating than a magnum of Moet.
No pain, no gain. 22 April 2008
By sonicwav - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The two things you should know about Heather McHugh's "Eyeshot" are that it can be difficult to understand what many of her phrases and even entire poems mean at first glance, and that it can be very rewarding when you do get into them, rereading them five, ten times, and start sorting everything out. McHugh deals with language in a number of different ways (she considers sounds, etymology, idiomatic phrasing, slang, techno-speak, and more) and often brings up multiple language issues at once. In addition, she is actively obscuring pieces of her poem, like the strict iambic meter and the concrete details. So what she ends up with are formal poems telling narrative stories or capturing real images, but hidden away behind free-verse explorations of words and wordplay, and the reader must work to figure everything out. And it can be hard work indeed. But, since McHugh excels not only in both of these modes of writing, but in the marrying of them together, it can be very satisfying once the words and images start falling into place. As other reviewers have mentioned, images and themes of eyes and sight are covered throughout the book, and this adds an additional challenge: once you start solving the puzzles of the individual poems, you can begin to consider how they relate to each other.

Two of the more accessible poems in the book are "Goner's B*ner" and "The Retort Room," which feature McHugh's signature style in phrases like "Is it a mistake / or a misgiving?" and "past eking out, past aching in," and I would recommend that a reader new to her writing start there.
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