Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Guest Editor Heather McHugh

Guest Editor of The Best American Poetry 2007, Heather McHugh, arranged the collection with cleverness and flow, one poem ends with an un-facing while the next begins with a beheading and so on. One hilarious example is the pairing of "Crimble of Staines" followed by "Scumble."

Jeannette Allee's "Crimble of Staines" reads at first glance as a biting indictment against England. "Jolly 'ol brims with againstness/ 'anti-clockwise,' 'ante-natal' if you will/the 'crumbling masonry' of/your 'anti-relationship structure' you once called it before/you went away." The question that arises is what does language usage say about a culture. At heart the deeper question from a romantic wronged in love is how does one ever comprehend a lack of ethics. The title, "Crimble of Staines," does not refer to the car business of the same name but by the poem's end represents the crumpled values and wrinkled condom left on the narrator's bed. This dovetails perfectly with Rae Armantrout's "Scumble," of which the author writes: "part of the rather strange pleasure of poetry is calling one thing by another's name" and she wonders what is the "psychology of this phenomenon? What is the kick in the substitution? Is it covertly erotic?" "What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words such as 'scumble,' 'pinky' or/ extrapolate'?/...What if 'of' where such a hot button?/'Scumble of bushes."