Matthew Sperling

Rhyme & Reason

The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht


Johns Hopkins University Press 365pp £18 order from our bookshop

The American poet Anthony Hecht (1923–2004) is an unfashionable figure. His work is celebrated for its mastery of traditional form and its dedication to the high style, in common with the work of friends such as James Merrill and Richard Wilbur. But at this late stage it is hard to see how this writing – with its formal polish, its rarefied but sometimes stiff and antique diction, its rather academic literariness – could make a comeback among a wider readership when the most-loved poets from the generation who came of age in mid-century are the likes of Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg, whose work is full of breezy fun, expressive trauma and rule-breaking.

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