Melodies Unheard: Essays on the Mysteries of Poetry (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)

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9780801882661: Melodies Unheard: Essays on the Mysteries of Poetry (Johns Hopkins: Poetry and Fiction)

The fruit of a lifetime's reading and thinking about literature, its delights and its responsibilities, this book by acclaimed poet and critic Anthony Hecht explores the mysteries of poetry, offering profound insight into poetic form, meter, rhyme, and meaning. Ranging from Renaissance to contemporary poets, Hecht considers the work of Shakespeare, Sidney, and Noel; Housman, Hopkins, Eliot, and Auden; Frost, Bishop, and Wilbur; Amichai, Simic, and Heaney. Stepping back from individual poets, Hecht muses on rhyme and on meter, and also discusses St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians and Melville's Moby-Dick. Uniting these diverse subjects is Hecht's preoccupation with the careful deployment of words, the richness and versatility of language and of those who use it well.

Elegantly written, deeply informed, and intellectually playful, Melodies Unheard confirms Anthony Hecht's reputation as one of our most original and imaginative thinkers on the literary arts.

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About the Author:

Anthony Hecht (1923-2004) was the author of seven poetry collections and several works of criticism. He was awarded the Pullizter Prize in 1968 for The Hard Hours and his other honors include the Bollingen Prize, the Eugenio Montale Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Dorothea Tanning Award, and the Robert Frost Medal.

Review:

This book is full of small, enjoyable revelations.

(Dinitia Smith New York Times Book Review)

[Hecht] not only illuminates overlooked gems such as Henry Noel's 'Gaze Not on Swans,' praising its combined sensuality of sound and image, but also pries into standards such as Eliot's The Waste Land and Frost's 'The Wood-Pile' to unearth startling interpretations... Hecht's insights are too numerous to mention, for he touches on every aspect of poetry while exhausting none... This wonderful, instructive volume will engage all lovers of fine poetry.

(Library Journal (starred review))

In the role of critic, Hecht scrutinizes the work of others closely, revealing wonders that might easily be missed even by a reasonably diligent interpretation... the book is mined with stimulating theories and fresh observations.

(Phoebe Pettingell The New Leader)

It is an inspiring and humbling object lesson for any serious reader to behold the thoroughness with which Mr. Hecht opens his powers of perception to the variety of texts he encountered in the course of writing these pieces... Throughout, the style and manner are those of a deeply knowledgeable and polished conversationalist, grateful to be in the presence of the works he understands so well. Care for poetry and its traditions has seldom been so memorably exemplified.

(Henry Taylor Washington Times)

What Hecht pays attention to in Melodies Unheard shows him to be a teacher and a close reader, in addition to the poet we already know him to be.

(Stephen Cushman Virginia Quarterly Review)

[Hecht's] broad reading and years of classroom lecturing cause him to place literature in the context of all the learning and experience he can muster?which turns out to be quite a lot.

(David Mason Weekly Standard)

Anthony Hecht shares with Christopher Ricks, the critic to whom he dedicates Melodies Unheard, an almost uncanny sense of the mysteries of poetic implication, of what we intuit and respond to without seeming to actually hear... Every page has some new felicity to offer us.

(John Bayley New York Review of Books)

In both poetry and prose Hecht is graceful, learned, and attentive... Melodies Unheard leaves me braced, chastened, and invigorated by Hecht's intellect.

(David Mason Sewanee Review)

Hecht is adept at close readings, and for this reason, among others, his book will be a pleasure for anyone who takes good poetry seriously.

(Choice)

Earnestness with irony, epistemological ambition with ambiguity, complexity of feeling, fusion of emotion with music and idea?these are the modernist virtues Hecht both respects and exhibits.

(Ron Smith Georgia Review)

Anthony Hecht's vast knowledge of literature and his gift for mesmerizing argument are both amply present in Melodies Unheard. Whether defending the sestina against accusations of boredom and dolefulness or examining the structure of Shakespeare's sonnets or unraveling some of the complexity of Moby-Dick, these essays are models of civility, candor, and grace. I know of no other poet, certainly none of Anthony Hecht's stature, who sheds as much light on the intricacies and hidden designs of poems and who does it with such style.

(Mark Strand)

Anthony Hecht declares himself 'a poet first and only secondarily a critic,' but Melodies Unheard proves again that he is a master in both trades. His discourse on such subjects as rhyme, the sestina, and 'the music of forms' is both scholarly and delightful; his articles on individual poets are finely done; and best of all, perhaps, are his penetrating treatments of particular poems?his reading of Bishop's 'The Man-Moth,' for instance, his biographical placement of Frost's 'The Wood-Pile,' his discussion of emotional paradox in Hopkins's 'The Wreck of the Deutschland.' When Hecht goes beyond the preserve of poetry, as in his forceful pieces on Moby-Dick and St. Paul, it is always a splendid bonus.

(Richard Wilbur)

Unheard melodies may be sweeter, as Keats writes, but in the essays of another masterful poet and thinker about poetry, Anthony Hecht, we find it delicious to be listening as if for the first time. No reader of Hecht's dazzling essays on rhyme, on the sestina, or on Shakespeare's sonnets, will fail to hear a fine-tuned music. Hecht's characteristically original leaps of association among the arts also ensure that we can visualize the heretofore unobserved kinship of Sir Philip Sidney and Jean-Antoine Watteau, or of Elizabeth Bishop and Hieronymous Bosch. Here is a book to be seen and heard in the mind long after we close it.

(Mary Jo Salter)

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