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The Hard Hours

By Anthony Hecht


This collection includes a generous selection of poems from Mr. Hecht’s famous first book, A Summoning of Stones, long out of print and impossible to find. It also features the seven brilliant woodcuts that Leonard Baskin made for the original limited edition of The Seven Deadly Sins.

From the Poetry Foundation biography of Hecht:
The Hard Hours (1967) broke with many of the mannerisms that marked The Summoning of Stones. According to Laurence Lieberman in the Yale Review: “In contrast with the ornate style of many of Hecht’s earlier poems, the new work is characterised by starkly undecorative—and unpretentious—writing.” Hecht’s mature style was evident in poems like “More Light! More Light!” one of his most famous poems and, some argue, the finest poem in English to address the Holocaust. The poem opens with the burning of a Christian heretic in the Tower of London, but swiftly moves to “outside a German wood,” recounting a horrific event of the Holocaust in an attempt to capture how “barbarism dehumanises its victims,” according to poet Ed Hirsch. Also described as a depiction of the “end of Humanism,” Hecht’s poem is one of his most frequently anthologised and discussed. Other poems that treat the Holocaust and Jewish trauma, like “Rites and Ceremonies,” as well as lighter verses such as Hecht’s response to Matthew Arnold, “The Dover Bitch,” have become standards in the twentieth century canon. The Hard Hours won the Pulitzer Prize.

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