Anthony Hecht Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

It has been said that sestinas are all but impossible to write. What six end words does Anthony Hecht employ in “More Light! More Light!”? How do these words carry the sestina?

How does memory function in Hecht’s work? From his expressions of recall, what is Hecht’s position regarding memories of the Holocaust?

Who is the “you” in “The Book of Yolek,” and why does Hecht use this particular pronoun?

How do biblical and other allusions function to support theme in Hecht’s poetry?

Identify and discuss the varying ways Hecht uses light as metaphor and symbol.

Hecht’s form often includes a double vision. Consider the characteristics of each of the contrasting settings in “A Hill.” Where are readers in each?

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Critical pieces by Anthony Hecht (hehkt) have been compiled as Obbligati: Essays in Criticism (1986). He has also worked as a translator, publishing a version of Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes (1973; with Helen Bacon) and of Voltaire’s Poem upon the Lisbon Disaster (1977).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

An admirer of John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and George Santayana, Anthony Hecht maintained the wit, precision, and intellectual rigor of the modernist voice for decades following World War II. He avoided a variety of trends in American poetry, including confessional poetry and didactic antiwar poetry, during the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, his focus on issues surrounding art and human experience and on ethics and questions of human evil throughout history brought Hecht major recognition. In 1968, he won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for The Hard Hours. He received the Russell Loines Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1968 and was elected to membership of that academy in 1970. He served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 1971 to 1997. In 1983, Hecht was a corecipient of the Bollingen Prize (with John Hollander), and from 1982 to 1984, he was consultant in poetry (poet laureate) to the Library of Congress. He has won a variety of other awards, including the Prix de Rome (1951), the Eugenio Montale Award (1984), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (1988), the Aiken Taylor Award in Modern American Poetry (1989), the Wallace Stevens Award (1997), the Corrington Award for Literary Excellence from Centenary College of Louisiana (1997-1998), the Frost Medal (2000), the Ambassador Book Award (2002), and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2003). He was the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowships (1954, 1959), Ford Foundation Fellowships (1960, 1968), a Rockefeller Fellowship (1967), and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship (1969). He has also received honorary doctorates from Bard College, Georgetown University, Towson State University, and the University of Rochester.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Alvarez, A. “The Darkness and the Light.” The New York Review of Books 49, no. 8 (May 9, 2002): 10-13. A perceptive and informative discussion of Hecht’s poetry and its evolution in terms of Hecht’s formative experiences.

German, Norman. Anthony Hecht. New York: Peter Lang, 1989. This book-length study presents a chronological discussion of Hecht’s books of poetry, beginning with A Summoning of Stones and ending with The Venetian Vespers. It also contains some useful biographical information and an index of subjects and poems.

Hecht, Anthony. Anthony Hecht: In Conversation with Philip Hoy. London: Between the Lines, 1999. This collection of interviews with Hecht provides biographical information and insights into his work. Includes bibliographical references.

Hoy, Philip. Anthony Hecht in Conversation with Philip Hoy. London: Between the Lines, 1999. Hoy sent Hecht a list of one hundred questions, to which Hecht responded with detailed written replies. Followed by more questions and considerable revision and rewriting prior to the final presentation, Hecht’s responses are very revealing and offer a reflective, self-aware portrait of the artist in contemplation of his life and work.

Lea, Sydney, ed. The Burdens of Formality: Essays on the Poetry of Anthony Hecht. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989. The initial book-length consideration of Hecht’s writing, with essays covering the main themes, subjects, and formal qualities of his poems by placing them in artistic, social, and historical contexts. With an appendix that outlines the basic chronology of Hecht’s life and a thorough bibliography.

Lieberman, Laurence. Unassigned Frequencies: American Poetry in Review, 1964-1977. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977. This collection includes a short essay on W. W. Merwin and Anthony Hecht which was originally published in 1968. The author focuses on Hecht’s realism.

Whedon, Tony. “Three Mannerists.” American Poetry Review 17 (May/June, 1988): 41-47. This article discusses the poetry of Larry Levis, David St. John, and Anthony Hecht. Autobiographical narrative poems are the central focus, with space devoted to Hecht’s “The Venetian Vespers.”