In Praise of Pain

By Heather McHugh b. 1948 Heather McHugh
A brilliance takes up residence in flaws—
a brilliance all the unchipped faces of design   
refuse. The wine collects its starlets
at a lip's fault, sunlight where the nicked   
glass angles, and affection where the eye   
is least correctable, where arrows of
unquivered light are lodged, where someone   
else's eyes have come to be concerned.

For beauty's sake, assault and drive and burn   
the devil from the simply perfect sun.   
Demand a birthmark on the skin of love,   
a tremble in the touch, in come a cry,   
and let the silverware of nights be flecked,   
the moon pocked to distribute more or less   
indwelling alloys of its dim and shine   
by nip and tuck, by chance's dance of laws.

The brightness drawn and quartered on a sheet,   
the moment cracked upon a bed, will last   
as if you soldered them with moon and flux.   
And break the bottle of the eye to see
what lights are spun of accident and glass.

Heather McHugh, “In Praise of Pain” from Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993. Copyright © 1994 by Heather McHugh. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 (Wesleyan University Press, 1994)

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Poet Heather McHugh b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects The Body, Nature

 Heather  McHugh


Poet Heather McHugh’s work is noted for its rhetorical gestures, sharp puns and interest in the materials of language itself—her self-described determination is “to follow every surge of language, every scrap and flotsam.” Describing her work in the Boston Review, poet and critic Richard Howard alleged that “most of McHugh’s poems end in a spurt, as they proceed in a slather, of just such astonishment as is bestowed—afforded—by . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT The Body, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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