Poet of the Week – Heather McHugh

I was struck by this poem by McHugh, reproduced on MPR’s Writer’s Almanac site this morning:

“Blue Streak”

During the twentieth century chance
was the form we adored — you had to
generate it by machine. Kisses came
in twisted foil, we quickened the clock
with digitalis, invented the pacemaker
in case we fell in love. The whiz kids
were our only ancestors; the buzz saw,
working west, had left its mark.
My children, this is history:
we made it; millions counted;
one-of-a-kind was a lie; and the poets,
who should have spoken for us, were busy
panning landscapes, gunning
their electrics, going
I I I I I .

Once, years ago, I got a postcard from Ms. McHugh complimenting me on a poem of mine she had read, which stunned me into not even making sending her a polite postcard reply/thanks. Anyhow, more about Heather McHugh:

Academy of American Poets page with links to bios and a number of poems online
∙ Ms. McHugh’s own, more modest site
∙ Two interesting poems in the Connecticut Review’s site, though the formatting is bad
∙ A portion of a longer, more philosophical work in How(ever)
∙ As always, don’t forget to buy her books

Galileo Swan Song

Or maybe not quite yet. The little Jupiter probe that could has visited Io for the last time, and will now begin a final orbit that will first take it past Jupiter’s innermost moon Amalthea and then plunge the orbiter into the swirling hazes of the giant planet’s upper atmosphere, where presumably it will be destroyed in even quicker fashion than the little atmospheric probe Galileo dropped into Jupiter’s clouds in 1995.

With the decision to crash the probe into Jupiter to avoid any possibility it might, someday, drifting helplessly in a random Jovian orbit, crash into Europa, the NASA mission planners seem as if they have seen Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010 one too many times. (The justification is all the current theorizing that Europa might, just might, have life in some sub-surface water ocean, life which we wouldn’t want to contaminate with any nasty Earth bacterial spores or viruses that might have survived years of clinging to some internal part of Galileo. Well, maybe it justifies being that careful about an accidental impact.)

I just hope — hell, I assume — they’ll have the camera going and the antenna broadcasting as the thing noses into the cloud decks. It’ll make the soft-landing of the NEAR probe on the asteroid Eros look tame.


Now that he has segregated his Screeds to another page, he could win me back to regular readerdom if he keeps writing entries with paragraphs like this:

Today’s highlight: finding halogen bulbs for the lights under the counter. There are 12 bulbs. Eight had burned out. They had been winking out one at a time over the last week like stars at the edge of the universe, although without the attendant gravitational vortex, of course. Good thing; you’d hate to see the spatula enter the event horizon of a recessed bulb and just hang there, unusable, for millions of years.