Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of four history books, including the best-selling Doubt: A History, and three volumes of poetry. Her work has won major awards in intellectual history and in poetry. Hecht teaches in the Creative Writing Program at New York University and The Graduate Writing Program of The New School University.

Hecht's new book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Hecht's reply:
I’m reading The Great Enigma: new collected poems by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robin Fulton. Tranströmer won the 2011 Nobel in literature, though he’s still not that well known in the US. I teach a course in the graduate program at the New School called “Poets and Philosophy” and this year it centers on psychology. Tranströmer’s poetry is deeply concerned with the hidden workings of the mind, and he himself worked as a psychologist, so he was perfect for our reading list. Now rereading the poems on this cold blue-skied day I’m moved not only by his insight but by his patience. He’s impatiently patient, he’s patient only because there is no other choice. What we want comes slowly, if ever. “Often I have to stand motionless/ I am the knife-thrower’s partner at the circus!” (“The Gallery”)

I’m also reading David Lehman’s New and Selected Poems which just came out recently. It’s great and melancholy and honest, rings lots of my bells. I love this one poem where he sits in the sun and thinks, among other things, about the pesto sauce concocted by his wife Stacey, and thinks about a boy who wants nothing but to sit in the sun, but keeps arriving too late to do so – even though he, the poet, is actually sitting in the sun. So even when we make it, we miss it.

What else? Erin Belieu’s One Above and One Below, which is also poetry. I don’t always only read poetry, I just happen to only be reading poetry right now. Belieu’s poems are scary and sharp, they stick in my head. There’s one near the front of the book that says “the drowning man doesn’t drown” and she empathizes. As do I. I, for instance, am almost always drowning, and yet haven’t drowned at all.
Visit Jennifer Michael Hecht's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

--Marshal Zeringue