The Darkness and the Light
By Anthony Hecht
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780375411946, 80pp.)
Publication Date: June 12, 2001
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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
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.
Anthony Hecht is the author of seven books of poetry, among them The Hard Hours, which received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1968, and, more recently, Flight Among the Tombs. In 1984 he received the Eugenio Montale Award for lifetime achievement in poetry, and in 2000 the Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. He has written a critical study of the poetry of W. H. Auden, and On the Laws of the Poetic Art (Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts). He taught for some years at Bard College, the University of Rochester and Georgetown University, and now lives in Washington, D.C.
"Some years–no, decades!–ago, Anthony Hecht was pleased to call the poems in The Hard Hours, his second book, "a few snapshots from along the Via Negativa." Loyal to that figuration the poet remains, though how much more intense the chiaroscuro here, how much deeper the imprint: these are the poems of Horatio after so much of Denmark’s personnel has been cleared away, meditating loss and survival, rich with a survivor’s torn wisdom. For all the glee of the poesis, Hecht’s lines are severe even in their civility, their music wild even in its mastery. Rendered in his eighth book is the judgment of an unrelenting and an unreconciled art."