ahecht.jpgAnthony Hecht, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and educator, died on Oct. 20 after suffering from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 81.
The native New Yorker was an average student, but he found a passion for poetry while attending Bard College. Despite this literary yearning, Hecht left school in his sophomore year to serve with the Army’s 97th Infantry Division during World War II. He saw combat in France, Germany and Czechoslovakia and witnessed the liberation of the Flossenburg concentration camp near the Czech-German border.
Upon his return to the states, Hecht studied at Kenyon College in Ohio and at Columbia University. He invented the double dactyl, a humorous poetic form that begins with two three-syllable nonsense words (“Higgledy, piggledy”), in the 1950s then embarked on a teaching career at the University of Rochester in New York.
In between classes, Hecht penned dark and precise poetry that defied modern convention. He published nine poetry books, including the 1968 collection “The Hard Hours,” which won the Pulitzer Prize. In his later years, Hecht wrote three books of essays, translated Aeschylus’s “Seven Against Thebes” and edited “The Essential Herbert” and “Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls.”
Hecht moved to Washington D.C. in 1982 to work as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. After his two-year term expired, he taught at Georgetown University until his retirement in 1993. A chancellor emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, Hecht also won the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Prize and the Los Angeles Book Prize.
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