Collected Earlier Poemsby Anthony Hecht
THE VENETIAN VESPERS (1979)
“In its clear-eyed mercy toward human weakness, Anthony Hecht’s poetry goes from strength to strength. The Venetian Vespers is at once an intense corroboration and an ample extension of his subtle, supple talents. Nothing humane is alien to him… There is a handful of short poems that/i>
THE VENETIAN VESPERS (1979)
“In its clear-eyed mercy toward human weakness, Anthony Hecht’s poetry goes from strength to strength. The Venetian Vespers is at once an intense corroboration and an ample extension of his subtle, supple talents. Nothing humane is alien to him… There is a handful of short poems that are fostered alike by beauty and fear. But it is the four long poems that confirm Hecht as a poet of the widest apprehensions and comprehension, and this without the gigantism that so haunts American poetic ambition.”
—Christopher Ricks, The New York Times Book Review
MILLIONS OF STRANGE SHADOWS (1977)
“The high artistry of Anthony Hecht has been to nurture his own gift, and to work at it with the deliberateness and steadiness that it deserved from him... Emotional intensity and formal power were combined in Hecht from his beginnings… The thirty poems in Millions of Strange Shadows are all fully written, but several truly are the best he has published and are very likely to endure. The very best is ‘Green: An Epistle,’ which is a lesson in profound, controlled subjectivity and self-revelation, an exact antithesis to the opaque squalors of ‘confessional’ poets. Almost equally remarkable is ‘Coming Home,’ in which the poet John Clare receives a deeper interpretation than any critic has afforded him…”
—Harold Bloom, The New Republic
THE HARD HOURS (1968)
“Anthony Hecht’s first volume of poems, A Summoning of Stones, established him as one of the most accomplished of his extremely accomplished generation. His work was remarkable enough for its classical poise and elegance, but it also had a weight which set it apart. Since then his poetry has come clear in a direction nobody could have predicted…He did the most difficult thing of all: this most fastidious and elegant of poets shed every artifice and began to write with absolute raw simplicity and directness. Only a poet with an immense burden of something to say ever dreams of taking this course, and only an inspired artist can bring it off. The result here has been some of the most powerful and unforgettable poems at present being written in America,”
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Meet the Author
Anthony Hecht (1923-2004) was born in New York. His first book of poems, A Summoning of Stones, appeared in 1954, and his second book, The Hard Hours, won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1968. Millions of Strange Shadows was published in 1977, followed by The Venetian Vespers in 1979. All of these are included here in Collected Earlier Poems (the first in selected forms). His later volumes, The Transparent Man (1990), Flight Among the Tombs (1996), and The Darkness and the Light (2001) are gathered in Collected Later Poems (2003). He was also the author of a study of the poetry of W. H. Auden, The Hidden Law (1993), as well as several collections of critical essays, including Melodies Unheard: Essays on the Mysteries of Poetry (2003). Among other honors, he received the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Librex-Guggenheim Eugenio Montale Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the Robert Frost Medal. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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With Hecht's death in 2004, we lost a major poetic voice of the second half of the twentieth century. Hecht was a formalist poet in a period in which formal poetry was on the decline (although it never disappeared altogether), and he kept alive the tradition grandly, using updated language where appropriate, but just as often using a diction which challenged the reader to dig deeply into his lines to divulge their meaning. Hecht did not have the gift for aphoristic language to the extent that Richard Wilbur has, but his powers of intellection were on the whole greater than Wilbur's (much as Matthew Arnold observed of the differences between Tennyson and Browning). Hecht had a pessimistic streak, but could also be witty and humorous (see 'The Ghost in the Martini' and his take on Arnold's 'Dover Beach'). The strongest selections are those from his Pulitzer-winning volume 'The Hard Hours,' including such poems as 'More Light, More Light,' 'Rites and Ceremonies,' 'Birdwatchers of America,' 'The Origin of Centaurs,' and 'It Out-Herods Herod.' Highly recommended.
if i had to describe Anthony Hecht in one word, it would be regal. there is no poet who looks more dignified or acts with more dignity. and his poetry is full of grace, dignity, and a quiet power. it is no wonder that hecht is as respected as he is. the poems in this collection are ones to be read slowly, over time, in order to fully digest what makes hecht such a magnificant poet.