Confronting the Actualities

21 January 1983 – American writer Anthony Hecht wins the Bollingen Prize for Poetry. Hecht, a schoolmate of Jack Kerouac in New York, became interested in poetry while attending Bard College. However, the defining moments for his life and art came during his experiences in combat during World War II, especially what he encountered while helping to liberate Flossenburg Concentration Camp on 23 April 1945: “The place, the suffering, the prisoners’ accounts were beyond comprehension. For years after I would wake shrieking.” I recommend that people read Hecht’s “Third Avenue in Sunlight” and “More Light! More Light!,” as well as “It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It,” which I have posted below.

Tonight my children hunch 

Toward their Western, and are glad

As, with a Sunday punch, 

The Good casts out the Bad.

And in their fairy tales 

The warty giant and witch

Get sealed in doorless jails 

And the match-girl strikes it rich.

I’ve made myself a drink. 

The giant and witch are set

To bust out of the clink 

When my children have gone to bed.

All frequencies are loud

With signals of despair;

In flash and morse they crowd

The rondure of the air. 

For the wicked have grown strong,

Their numbers mock at death, 

Their cow brings forth its young,

Their bull engendereth.

Their very fund of strength,

Satan, bestrides the globe; 

He stalks its breadth and length 

And finds out even Job. 

Yet by quite other laws 

My children make their case;

Half God, half Santa Claus,

But with my voice and face,

A hero comes to save
The poorman, beggarman, thief,
And make the world behave

And put an end to grief.

And that their sleep be sound

I say this childermas

Who could not, at one time,

Have saved them from the gas.

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