Anthony Hecht, now in his eightieth year, has earned a place alongside such poets as W. H. Auden, Robert Frost, and Elizabeth Bishop. Here under one cover are his three most recent collections-The Transparent Man, Flight Among the Tombs, and The Darkness and the Light. The perfect companion to his Collected Earlier Poems (continuously in print since 1990), this book brings the eloquent sound of Hecht's music to bear on a wide variety of human dramas: from a young woman dying of leukemia to the tangled love affairs of A Midsummer Night's Dream; from Death as the director of Hollywood films to the unexpected image of Marcel Proust as a figure skater.
He glides with a gaining confidence, inscribes Tentative passages, thinks again, backtracks, Comes to a minute point, Then wheels about in widening sweeps and lobes, Large Palmer cursives and smooth entrelacs, Preoccupied, intent On a subtle, long-drawn style and pliant script Incised with twin steel blades and qualified Perfectly to express, With arms flung wide or gloved hands firmly gripped Behind his back, attentively, clear-eyed, A glancing happiness.
From the Hardcover edition.
The poetry of Anthony Hecht has been praised by Harold Bloom and Ted Hughes, among others, for its sure control of difficult material and its unique music and visual precision. This new volume is the fruit of a mellowing maturity that carries with it a smoky bitterness, a flavor of ancient and experienced wisdom, as in this stanza from "Sarabande on Attaining the Age of Seventy-seven":
A turn, a glide, a quarter-turn and bow, The stately dance advances; these are airs Bone-deep and numbing as I should know by now, Diminishing the cast, like musical chairs.
Hecht';s verse--by turns lyric and narrative, formal and free--is grounded in the compassion that comes from a deep understanding of every kind of human depredation, yet is tempered by flashes of wry comedy, and still more by innocent pleasure in the gifts of the natural world. Followers of his poetry will recognize an evolution of style in many of these poems--a quiet and understated voice, passing through darkness toward realms of delight.
From the Hardcover edition.
THE VENETIAN VESPERS (1979) In its clear-eyed mercy toward human weakness, Anthony Hechts 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 Hechts 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 predictedHe 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, --Ted Hughes