Ashley Anna McHugh is a formal poet and editor, currently living in Memphis, Tennessee. She studied at the Ohio State University and Boston University before receiving her MFA from the University of Arkansas.

Her first book, Into These Knots, was the winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize, and more recently, a limited-edition chapbook of her work, Become All Flame, was published by Love Among the Ruins Editions.

Poems from her new manuscript, Merciless Love, have most recently appeared in PN ReviewLiterary Matters, and 32 Poems. She is the executive editor of Measure Review, an online magazine of formal poetry.

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Into These Knots

The poems of Into These Knots, Ashley Anna McHugh’s debut collection, glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, interrogating and elucidating in elegant and supercharged speech ultimate questions and intimate foibles. With equal parts intelligence and passion, Ms. McHugh can quarrel with scripture or riff on the amorous pleadings of Andrew Marvell or the stark musings of Baudelaire. In “Cairns,” a brilliant sequence that plays with the boundaries of the sonnet, mountain hikes in rural West Virginia trace, among other things, the difficult pathways to the divine.

Ms. McHugh’s poems resound with a songlike intensity and an arresting voice entirely their own. Personal meditations on loss, and the need to reconcile with the past, ground this collection, even as the poems struggle against their precarious conclusions.

Skillfully crafted, the poems in Into These Knots capture a precise clarity of cadence, accompanied by an exacting attention to the intricacies of traditional verse. Their formal assurance lends a transformative control, a certain deliberateness, to the disordering events and emotions revealed. Frequently returning to their tonic chord of doubt, the poems never abandon their search for a lasting belief, an attainable transcendence, and, above all, the possibility of forgiveness.

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Become All Flame

Become All Flame, which was released in 2011 by Love Among the Ruins Editions, is a limited-edition chapbook of poetry that features a letterpress cover and a hand-sewn binding. Poems from this collection appeared in The New Criterion, Anti-, and Crab Orchard Review.

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“The poems in Into These Knots are graceful and powerful in equal measure – beautifully written raids on the inarticulate from a clear-eyed poet probing the beginnings of song in the unsayable. The beautiful balance extends throughout poems; the emotional resonances of every thought are weighed carefully and every emotion is fully thought through. Love may be, as Ashley Anna McHugh tells us, ‘a rust-worn boat,’ but with her (and thrilled to be along for the ride), ‘We thread / A slow wake through the water – then silently / We start to row, and will for as long as this lasts.”

Andrew Hudgins

“The complexities of the relationships and ideas in Into These Knots are served well by the precision and ingenuity of McHugh’s formal techniques. This is an extraordinary debut marked by aesthetic and emotional effects achieved through formal mastery, and we can look forward eagerly to McHugh’s future books.”

Luke Hankins in Contemporary Poetry Review

“Into These Knots is a spiritual feast for the questing mind”

Alex Pepple, Editor of Able Muse

“Poems in Ashley Anna McHugh’s first book have a startling freshness and emotional pounce. […] McHugh pulls off a hard thing: she peels back layer after layer of a tense situation until the reader, implicated, flinches. The best poems are stripped down, gleaming raw wood.”

Beverly Bie Brahic in Poetry

“Touching and complex, ‘Cairns’ reveals McHugh at her best: a pained psychological matrix and an often-innovative use of form. [… Into These Knots] feels honest, gracefully shaped, and true to human emotional complexity.”

Benjamin S. Grossberg in Antioch Review

“It is impossible here to fully describe the powerful intertwining of trails taken and not taken, choices and their repercussions, that McHugh binds together in this series [“Cairns”]; nevertheless it is possible to recommend reading the collection again and again.

Into These Knots is a remarkable book, even more remarkable because it is Ashley Anna McHugh’s first full-length volume. It should put to rest any lingering question of whether formal poetry is adequate to express contemporary thought and emotion.”

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish in World Literature Today


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Measure Review

Ashley Anna McHugh is the executive editor of Measure Review, an online magazine of formal poetry.

Founded by Paul Bone and Robert Griffith shortly after the last run of The FormalistMeasure was conceived as an annual print magazine dedicated to publishing the best metrical, English-language verse from both the United States and abroad—and for more than a decade, the editors consistently achieved this goal.

In issue after issue, Measure published many of the finest new poems written by poetic legends like Richard Wilbur, Mark Jarman, X.J. Kennedy, Rhina Espaillat, Wyatt Prunty, Michael Heffernan and James Whitehead alongside new and emerging voices in the formal landscape.

Measure Review continues to advance this legacy online.