A Thickness of Particulars

The Poetry of Anthony Hecht
by Jonathan F. S. Post
rrp $37.19

Publisher: OUP Oxford

Publication Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 9780191071355

Binding: Kobo eBook

Availability: eBook

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A Thickness of Particulars: The Poetry of Anthony Hecht is the first book-length study of one of the great formal poets of the later twentieth century (1923-2004). Making use of Hecht's correspondence, which the author edited, it situates Hecht's writings in the context of pre- and post-World-War II verse, including poetry written by W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, James Merrill, and Richard Wilbur. In nine chapters, the book ranges over Hecht's full career, with special emphasis placed on the effects of the war on his memory; Hecht participated in the final push by the Allied troops in Europe and was involved in the liberation of the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. The study explores the important place Venice and Italy occupied in his imagination as well as the significance of the visual and dramatic arts and music more generally. Chapters are devoted to analyzing celebrated individual poems, such as "The Book of Yolek" and "The Venetian Vespers" ; the making of particular volumes, as in the case of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning "The Hard Hours"; the poet's mid-career turn toward writing dramatic monologues and longer narrative poems ("Green, An Epistle," "The Grapes," and "See Naples and Die") and ekphrases; the inspiring use he made of Shakespeare, especially in "A Love for Four Voices," his delightful riff on "A Midsummer Night's Dream"; and his collaboration with the artist Leonard Baskin in the "Presumptions of Death" series from "Flight Among the Tombs." The book seeks to unfold the itinerary of a highly civilized mind brooding, with wit, over the dark landscape of the later twentieth century in poems of unrivalled beauty.