Anthony Hassett wrote most of these poems during the final months of his life when struggling with terminal illness. Hermetic in style, his poetry is the response of an ever-inquisitive, rebellious, yet magnanimous mind, to the unspeakable cruelty and beauty of the human realm. Hassett’s gaze is direct and sustaining — willing to fully engage in the physical world in pursuit of emancipatory potential. His voice is of both an unapologetically well-read intellectual and an anarchistic nomad, crafted and honed from a half-century of travel and Gnostic pursuit.
“Last Poems” is of particular value and poignancy because the work presents a rare glimpse into the visceral subtleties of a failing body that is documented by a vital, enduring, and expansive mind. Hassett was a keen and fearless observer of the ambiguities of his own internal condition, and, equally so, if not more critically of, the state of the external world; the result is a seamless articulation of all that he encounters. Dantesque in its transformatory power of the imagination, this sensual work is at once physical and metaphysical; literal and symbolic; containing bursts of humor, as well as moments of scathing critique.
“Last Poems” is ultimately a condemnation of what is, but also a poetic guidebook of what could be: revelatory in its humble, but magnificent, instances of grace.