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Broken English

Poetry and Partiality

Heather McHugh

Publication Year: 1993

"When I call poetry a form of partiality," writes Heather McHugh, "I mean its economies operate by powers of intimation: glimmering and glints, rather than exhaustible sums. It is a broken language from the beginning, brimming with non-words: all that white welled up to keep the line from surrendering to the margin; all that quiet, to keep the musics marked." In Broken English, McHugh applies her poetic sensibility and formidable critical insight to topics ranging from the poetry of Valery and Rilke to ancient Greek drama and Yoruba folk songs, offering intense, passionate, highly personal readings that are informed and unified by her concern for the relationships among language, culture, and poetry.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Prefatory Note

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-4

I have not extirpated all sentimental attachment from my affections, God help me. Right now mine tend to collect with lapidary precision around a particular spot on earth, 45 degrees latitude, 67 degrees longitude, where all the addresses end with a ME and an us. ...

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The Store

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pp. 5-25

We come to acts of experience, in particular to acts of art, with a store of unexamined premises-time and space among them. At the moment we speak of a we create a pas;. ("Just no;,' says an American, and means a certain moment in the past.) In the very act...

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The Still Pool Forgets: A Reminding from the Yoruba

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pp. 28-40

The Yoruba people of western Africa, one of the largest ethnic populations south of the Sahara, constitute a powerful urban culture. Yoruba cities fostered rich economic, administrative, and religious systems, and it was precisely this society the western slave trade plundered...

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A Stranger's Way of Looking

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pp. 41-67

It's one thing to be alone, and quite another to be deserted. I've always considered any opportunity to spend a stretch of time on islands to be precious, but the difference between solitude and loneliness is sometimes mistaken for the difference between work and love. When G. K. ...

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Broken English : What We Make of Fragments

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pp. 68-86

The fragment is a form a7e approach in aftermath (its other status, as the product of forethought, is rarer, and sponsors a special set of reflections, some of which I'll come to later). The study of fragments is the study of time's effects, and an artifact's endurances. Poets establish...

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A Genuine Article

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pp. 87-99

I n the beginning was the word-not a word. Moreover it didn't seem to matter exactly what word. Or perhaps the word was one that (like the name of God) could not be spoken. In other words, the word was (if not mum) then maybe more like the, itself. ...

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What Dickinson Makes a Dash For: Interpretive Insecurity as Poetic Freedom

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pp. 100-114

I t is no accident that book, sentence, and pen are the terms not only of artistic profession, but of penal containment. Profession is, itself, a prison, unless or until it can say so (that is, investigate its own opposite say, confession). The professor is trapped in the terms of his work, in the...

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Essay at Saying: Paul Celan

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pp. 115-137

w hen I read Paul Celan, I read his translators; and I read his translators with a peculiar sense of sympathy: like them I am in the presence of an unforeknown language. Celan was himself a translator all his life (from and into German, French, Romanian, Russian, English). ...


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pp. 139-147


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pp. 149-150

Index of Names

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pp. 151-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572110
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819552686

Page Count: 170
Publication Year: 1993

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Literature -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Poetry.
  • McHugh, Heather, 1948- -- Aesthetics.
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