Hecht, Anthony (Evan) 1923-2004
HECHT, Anthony (Evan) 1923-2004
OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born January 16, 1923, in New York, NY; died of lymphoma October 20, 2004, in Washington, DC. Educator and author. Hecht was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former poet laureate. After enduring what he later described as a difficult childhood, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II and witnessed unspeakable horrors when his unit helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp. He finished his undergraduate work at Bard College in absentia, and after the war attended Kenyon College before completing a master's degree at Columbia University in 1950. Hecht's teaching career began at Kenyon in 1947; he then went on to teach at the State University of Iowa in 1948 and New York University in 1949. Hecht's first published collection of poems, A Summoning of Stones, was released to critical praise in 1954. This was followed by a couple of pamphlets and an edited work before he came out with the Pulitzer Prizewinning collection, The Hard Hours (1967). Hecht had by now established his reputation as a formalist poet, composing verses in traditional rhymes and meters at a time when the free verse form was considered cutting-edge style. Critics of his work were nevertheless impressed with his elegant writings about serious issues, such as war and other dark themes. He was repeatedly praised for making his subjects compelling in a way that stirred much thought and emotion in the reader without resorting to strongly emotional language and invective to get his point across. In the meantime, Hecht continued his peripatetic teaching career, spending the late 1950s at Smith College, followed by a year at Bard College. In 1967 he taught for a year at the University of Rochester, and in 1971 he was Hurst Professor at Washington University. During the 1970s, he was a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale universities, and from 1985 to 1993 he had his longest tenure as university professor at Georgetown University. From 1982 to 1984 Hecht also served as the Library of Congress's poetry consultant, a post that has now become known as poet laureate of the United States. Hecht did not publish a huge body of work during his lifetime, releasing only nine books altogether, but they are widely considered to be of consistently high quality. He also edited a number of books, wrote criticism, and released the much-praised The Hidden Law: The Poetry of W. H. Auden in 1993. Among his other verse collections are Millions of Strange Shadows (1977), The Transparent Man (1990), Death Sauntering About (1994), The Darkness and the Light (2001), and Collected Later Poems (2003), the last which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2004. Though much of his writing involved weighty themes, Hecht was also known for his humor, most famously for his poem "The Dover Bitch," a parody of Matthew Arnold's famous "Dover Beach." Hecht was repeatedly honored with prestigious prizes for his output, including earning the 1983 Bollingen Prize, the 1997 Tanning Prize for lifetime achievement, and the 1999 Wallace Stevens Award. His final publications include Melodies Unheard: Essays (2003) and a Russian translation of Poems (2003).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, October 22, 2004, section 3, p. 11.
Independent (London, England), October 25, 2004, p. 35.
Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2004, p. B18.
New York Times, October 22, 2004, p. A21.
Times (London, England), October 26, 2004, p. 59.
Washington Post, October 22, 2004, p. B7.