As with most of Hecht’s sestinas, “The Book of Yolek” carries the biographical burden of eternal recurrence—of human indignities, of the void of human indemnity, and of the onus of seeing and remembering. However, unlike other works recovering the memories of the Holocaust, this work admonishes, expecting and insisting—with precision of end word usage and textured, terrifying allusion—that every sentient being also carry the burden and also remember. It is not, then, pure memory that drives the work but a call to remember and in that relentless recall, to suspend that which saves humanity—be it food, water, walking, or joy.


German, Norman. Anthony Hecht. New York: Peter Lang, 1989.

Lea, Sydney, ed. The Burdens of Formality: Essays on the Poetry of Anthony Hecht. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989.

Hoffman, Daniel. The Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.

McClatchy, J. D. White Paper: On Contemporary Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Perkins, David. A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1987.

Spiegelman, William. The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.