The Right Hand

by Christina Pugh

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Format: paperback
Published: October 2024

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ISBN: 978-1-961209-13-8 Categories: ,

“In a shimmering phenomenology of body, spirit, and soul, The Right Hand resides at the tender junction of nerve and bone, ‘a nexus: metropolitan.’ In her radiant collection, Christina Pugh’s astute eye illuminates Maya Lin’s lovely river of pins, St. Teresa of Avila with an angel, and wonders such as a ‘sea of porphyry.’ A mystical cartography of the senses, Pugh’s earthbound threshold of the human resonates with our longing for God and the eternal, mapping a basil leaf juxtaposed to a basilica, displaying ‘the flash of a neural jewel,’ or glowing with ‘this notion / of change carved in marble / unfettering the seam / between watcher / and creator.’”

—Karen An-hwei Lee

“I had thought the mystery of the body and the mystery of faith were different mysteries, and then I read Christina Pugh’s The Right Hand, and learned I’d been thinking wrong. I want to say that this book is two books stitched together by an intelligence of remarkable sensitivity, but it isn’t true. Rather, the two long poems of which the whole is comprised—Into the Skin and L’Incontro: The Meeting—act as stereoscope, bringing the body’s pain and the soul’s ecstasy into their overlapping dimensionality which makes them, finally, real. Skin pierced is the primary principle: the poet’s experience with acupuncture to remedy chronic pain, St. Teresa of Avila (as depicted by Bernini and her own words), pierced by the spear of the angel. In lines needle-sharp, Pugh works toward the radical passivity that might be poetry’s highest achievement—that to the pain one is in, some hand unbidden comes, and relieves it. Call that inspiration or call it intervention, call it Muse or call it medicine, the result is the same: the shattered nerve stitches together again into the possibility of beauty, and these are beautiful poems, true to both body and soul.”

—Dan Beachy-Quick

In poetry that dazzles with its erudition and cosmopolitan approach, Christina Pugh shows us the role of language in constructing—and eventually deconstructing—the self. “In a room made of windows, glass is the skin,” she tells us. At turns luminous and devastating, the work in this gorgeous volume reveals every facet of the narrator’s lived experience—from inhabiting the physical body to articulating a sophisticated artistic sensibility—as discursive constructs, arising out of a nexus of community and shared experience. “[L]ike a flock we all landed at Teresa and the angel,” she recounts. Yet, at the same time, Pugh interrogates the narrator’s lingering sense of cultural and linguistic otherness, revealing connection with those around her as both contingent and inherently unstable. The voice that emerges from this intersection of philosophy and art, celebration and elegy, is as singular as it is eloquent. “I’m thinking everyone must have a fulcrum,” she writes, “The place from which we radiate.” These are poems that radiate with incredible artistic vision and writerly craft.

Christina Pugh
photo: Richard DelVisco

Christina Pugh is the author of five previous books of poetry including Stardust Media, winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry, and a book of essays titled Ghosts and the Overplus: Reading Poetry in the Twenty-First Century; she is Professor of English in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has received awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, the Bogliasco Foundation, and others.

Additional information

Weight 0.4 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 9 in