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The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht

Anthony Hecht edited with an introduction by Jonathan F. S. Post

Publication Year: 2012

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anthony Hecht (1923–2004) was known not only for his masterful control of form and language but also for his wit and humor. With the help of Helen Hecht, the poet’s widow, Jonathan F. S. Post combed through more than 4,000 letters to produce an intimate look into the poet’s mind and art across a lifetime. The letters range from Hecht’s early days at summer camp to college at Bard, to the front lines of World War II, to travels abroad in France and Italy, to marriage, and to fame as a poet and critic. Along the way, Hecht corresponded with well-known poets such as John Hollander, James Merrill, Anne Sexton, and Richard Wilbur. Those interested in the lives of contemporary poets will read these highly personal letters with delight and surpris

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xx

What is characteristic about the humor here is the note of self-deprecation in Hecht’s gradually, tellingly unfolding syntax. Initially imagining, with some small effort, a time in the murky future when his letters might be deemed worth collecting, the author manages to prick the puffery of this thought ...

Brief Chronology

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pp. xxi-xxiv

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1. Childhood and College, 1935–1943

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pp. 3-18

Although Hecht was later to describe his childhood as unhappy, the letters written to his parents during the five summers he spent at Camp Kennebec in Maine, from 1935 to 1939, offer an altogether sunnier picture. For the most part, they are filled with good-spirited fun. ...

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2. World War II, 1943–1946

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pp. 19-68

Ninety-three letters, including a few v-mails, postcards, and telegrams, survive from Anthony Hecht’s nearly three years in the army. These constitute a continuous and remarkable record of his activities during and immediately after the war. The only major gap in the epistolary record, from October 1943 through March 1944, ...

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3. Back Home and Abroad, 1946–1952

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pp. 69-100

A striking snapshot of Hecht in 1947, now included in the Wikipedia entry for him, seems to capture the peripatetic spirit of the young poet in the years immediately following the war and leading up to the publication of his first volume of poetry, A Summoning of Stones, in 1954. ...

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4. Marriage and Single Life, 1954–1967

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pp. 101-130

Thirteen years separate the publication of A Summoning of Stones in 1954 and The Hard Hours, Hecht’s second collection of poems, published in 1967. Their respective critical receptions could hardly have been more different, however. ...

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5. A Second Life, 1968–1982

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pp. 131-202

In 1967, only months shy of receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Hard Hours, Hecht was appointed the John H. Deane Professor of Rhetoric and Poetry at the University of Rochester. His eighteen-year tenure at Rochester proved to be the longest appointment of his academic career. ...

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6. Critic and Poet, 1983–1992

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pp. 203-248

In 1982, Hecht was appointed Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now known as Poet Laureate, following generations of eminent poets to Washington—Robert Frost, Allen Tate, Robert Lowell, and Elizabeth Bishop, to name a few he most admired. ...

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7. The Flourish of Retirement, 1993–2004

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pp. 249-346

More than two thousand letters and postcards of Hecht’s date from 1993 to 2004—more than half, that is, of all the extant correspondence that has come down to us, and surely enough to make for a fine volume of its own. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 347-348

This book would never have been possible without the extraordinary dedication and efforts of Helen Hecht. During the more than five years it has taken to uncover, assemble, and edit her late husband’s letters, she has been an indefatigable researcher, the most generous and tireless of correspondents, and a patient and acute reader of almost every phrase that appears in this book. ...

Credits

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pp. 349-350

Index

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pp. 351-365


E-ISBN-13: 9781421407852
E-ISBN-10: 142140785X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421407302
Print-ISBN-10: 1421407302

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 21 halftones
Publication Year: 2012

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Subject Headings

  • Hecht, Anthony, 1923-2004 -- Correspondence.
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
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