Some writers win our respect, others our admiration, and a very few inspire something like love—is there a nearer word for the intensity of feeling, elevation, and devotion occasioned by the best writing?1 Poets enter into fond liaisons with their literary precursors, either promiscuously or chastely. Anthony Hecht (1923–2004) noted his affection for a range of poets—Donne, Herbert, and Hardy often chief among them—but none, I think, had a more profound affect on him, both personally and poetically, than Shakespeare. Not even the Bible—which Hecht read obsessively and which figures directly in many of his poems, particularly the late poems of The Darkness and the...


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