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By Heather McHugh

"When I name poetry a kind of partiality," writes Heather McHugh, "I suggest its economies function through powers of intimation: glimmering and flickers, instead of exhaustible sums. it's a damaged language from the start, brimming with non-words: all that white welled as much as retain the road from surrendering to the margin; all that quiet, to maintain the musics marked." In damaged English, McHugh applies her poetic sensibility and bold serious perception to issues starting from the poetry of Valery and Rilke to historic Greek drama and Yoruba folks songs, providing severe, passionate, hugely own readings which are proficient and unified via her challenge for the relationships between language, tradition, and poetry.

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The bush is a literal location, and the poem doesn't metaphorize away a difficult question. It is stunning, immediately, for the directness of its address to the sorrow at hand. Apart from the natural analogical relation that arises between title and body of poem, there is in the poem no direct identification of the repeated "it" as the burden of death itself. Indeed, the virtue of the poem lies entirely in its refusal to abstract its object: the physical weight of the death, and not its philosophical constitution, seems at issue, and the repetition "I cannot carry" builds up great power, as if in plain linguistic illustration of a Dickinsonian numbnessin-the-face-of-death.

When the buffalo dies in the forest, something is carried into the house. But when the mouse dies in the house something is thrown into the bush. Note here first of all, in the best sense, the beating-around-the-bush. The bush is a literal location, and the poem doesn't metaphorize away a difficult question. It is stunning, immediately, for the directness of its address to the sorrow at hand. Apart from the natural analogical relation that arises between title and body of poem, there is in the poem no direct identification of the repeated "it" as the burden of death itself.

One might have imagined the grounds of the ideal to be immaterial, the stuff of spirit; but Rdke makes that vacancy take on the greatest weight. Rdke knows the burden of God's word (one need only take a look at the poem "A Prophet" to see the stresses conferred by the sacred on the mortal). Embodied, the ideal must be made of the hardest stuff, marble, something to outlast time. The immortal gets figured, paradoxically, in the densest material. Marble's story of origins has the same power for us as does the figure of the hero himself, whose shape will be made of marble's matter.

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