In her new poetry collection Grains of the Voice (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press), Christina Pugh ’88 reveals a fascination with sound in all its manifestations, including the human voice, musical instruments, and the sounds produced by the natural and man-made worlds. All of these serve as both the framework of poems and the occa¬sion for their changes of direction, of tone, of point of reference. The poems contain echoes—and sometimes the words themselves—of other poets, but just as often of popular and obscure songs, of the noise of pop culture, and of philosophers’ writings. Beneath the surface of her work, Pugh explores the nature of and need for communication and celebrates the endless variety of its forms.
Pugh comments: “The title of my book was taken from ‘The Grain of the Voice,’ an essay on opera that was written by the critic Roland Barthes. In it, Barthes discusses a form of articulation that is, in his words, ‘a dual posture, a dual production—of language and of music.’ In short poems that both recall and revise the traditional sonnet, I have explored such ‘grains’ by incorporating particular musical and poetic line—from pop and rock songs, hymns, and poets ranging from Milton to Louise Bogan—into my own lines of extended syntactical thought. I hope that these poems may incite both new thought and new music in the mind and ear of the reader.”
Pugh’s previous collections of poems are Restoration and Rotary. Her awards include the 2000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship and a 2005 Ucross Foundation Residency Fellowship, the Grolier Poetry Prize, and four nominations for the Pushcart Prize. She is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago.