William Heyen Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

A Profile of Theodore Roethke (1971) and The Generation of 2000: Contemporary American Poets (1984) are works collected and edited by William Heyen (HAY-ihn). Heyen has also written a novel, Vic Holyfield and the Class of 1957: A Romance (1986), and numerous essays on American poetry and the environment. Pig Notes and Dumb Music: Prose on Poetry (1998) offers Heyen’s thoughts on the writing life and the creative process.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

William Heyen’s work has been greeted by critical acceptance and acclaim from many quarters. In 1965, Heyen won the Borestone Mountain Poetry Prize from the Prairie Schooner for “Boy of Gull, Boy of Brine.” During 1971-1972, he traveled to West Germany on a Senior Fulbright Lectureship and lectured at the Universities of Freiburg, Tübingen, Hannover, and Oslo, among others. He has been the recipient of three State University of New York Research Foundation Fellowships for poetry, two National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships (1973-1974 and 1984-1985), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for Poetry (1977-1978), the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Award from Poetry (1978), the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry (1982), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship (1984-1985). Noise in the Trees was chosen by the American Library Association as one of thirty Notable Books of 1974. The Generation of 2000 was chosen by the American Library Association’s Booklist as an Outstanding Book of 1984. Crazy Horse in Stillness won the 1997 National Small Press Book Award for Poetry. Shoah Train was one of the five finalists in the 2004 National Book Awards.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dodd, Elizabeth. “A Living Past.” Tar River Poetry 36, no. 1 (Fall, 1996): 45-48. This review of Crazy Horse in Stillness is perhaps the most penetrating and properly appreciative discussion of a Heyen masterpiece.

McFee, Michael. “The Harvest of a Quiet Eye.” Parnassus 10 (Spring/Summer, 1982): 153-171. This substantial review essay considers Lord Dragonfly, The Bees, The City Parables, Long Island Light, and The Swastika Poems.

Manassas Review: Essay on Contemporary American Poets 1, nos. 3/4 (1978). This entire issue, edited by Patrick Bizzaro, is devoted to discussion of Heyen’s works up to and including The Swastika Poems.

Parmet, Harriet L. The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust. Bethlehem, Pa.: Lehigh University Press, 2001. Parmet includes a long chapter, “The Confessional Poetry of Sylvia Plath and William Heyen: Searching for Expiation, Identification, and Communion with the Victims,” that is the most extensive and substantial consideration of Heyen’s Holocaust poetry. Other poets treated in this book are Gerald Stern and Jerome Rothenberg.