'Genius grant' winner to read poetry at ASU
She’s won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” is passionate about animals, and loves to work with words.
Prize-winning poet, educator and translator Heather McHugh will read her work and sign books at 7:45 p.m., Nov. 17, in the Memorial Union Pima Auditorium (230) at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.
McHugh then will discuss her work in a Public Craft Q&A at 3 p.m., Nov. 18 in the Piper Writers House, also on the Tempe campus. Both events are free and are part of the Distinguished Visiting Writing Series sponsored by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.
McHugh, born in San Diego to Canadian parents, was raised in Virginia. She graduated from Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Denver.
According to the Poetry Foundation, 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.”
McHugh told an interview that her interest in grammar came from Sister Cletus, a teacher at her parochial school in Arlington, Va.
She said, in a 1999 interview, "If you're a poet smitten with English, you love it for its drive and not its drone,” and that the trick of poetry is “the sudden unexpectedness inside the overknown."
According to poet Matthea Harvey, McHugh deals in all of her poems with “looking and language, seeing and saying.”
McHugh’s books of poems include “Upgraded to Serious,” “Eyeshot,” “The Father of Predicaments” and “Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
She is also the author of a collection of literary essays titled “Broken English: Poetry and Partiality” and four books of poetry translations, such as “Glottal Stop: Poems of Paul Celan” (with Nikolai Popov), and “ Because the Sea is Black: Poems of Blaga Dimitrova” (with Niko Boris).
McHugh has received two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and, in 2006, one of the first United States Artists awards.
From 1999 to 2006 she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2000 was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
For more than 20 years, she has served as a visiting faculty member in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and since 1984 as Milliman Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington in Seattle.
She champions animals on her personal Website, where she says, “Anyone who can afford to eat meat, or pay for entertainments, or bring pets into the household, can afford to TREAT KINDLY the animals with whom we all have commerce. Help make MERCY a cultural given, an everyday practice.”
For more information about the reading, contact the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, (480) 965-6018, or www.asu.edu/piper.