“Our rich, contingent and substantial world”
Even floating free of context, like dubious emails or graffiti, the words suggest their author. Which poet of the late twentieth century, an American male, in case we’re playing Twenty Questions, might have written them? One who respects words and the world, a mature intelligence, seasoned, philosophical in the rare good sense. That certainly narrows the field. Another clue: In an essay on Moby-Dick, this poet praised Melville’s book as “genial, playful and full of deceptive levity.”
The words quoted at the top are from “Mathematics Considered as a Vice,” one of six previously uncollected poems by Anthony Hecht published in the September 2011 issue of Poetry. Hecht died almost seven years ago, and as his life recedes his work grows ever more essential. One reads Hecht’s poems with the same expectation of serious delight we bring to, say, the poems of Milton or Edgar Bowers. Read David Yezzi’s introduction to the new poems and use the link to see new photographs of Hecht and his work.
Here are “The Plate,” “A Friend Killed in the War,” “An Offering for Patricia,” “The Fountain” (after Baudelaire) and "Dilemma."
It’s a measure of how far poetry and Poetry have fallen that Hecht’s poems appear alongside the feckless humbug of Kevin Young, Sharon Olds, Peter Gizzi, Robert Wrigley and others. They might be written in alien, mutually uncomprehending tongues. We’re grateful for the resurrected poems but mourn all that we've lost. Hecht writes in “An Offering for Patricia”:
“These textures solicit of us our instant homage”