Anthony Hecht: Selected Poems

Yolek’s Legacy College

Anthony Hecht’s “The Book of Yolek” tells the story of a young Jewish boy named Yolek, a fictional representation of a young boy who died during the Holocaust. The vivid imagery employed by Hecht creates a multifaceted universe that highlights the grueling nature of the Holocaust, while simultaneously comparing the Holocaust to the routine events of normal life. The poem starts by discussing the simple pleasures of daily activities, such as outdoor walks and home-cooked meals. With such pleasant, comforting language, the reader begins to feel relaxed with the beauty of life that Hecht describes. Suddenly, the sestina takes a dark yet captivating turn, in which long walks in nature are interrupted by inhumane marches to the camp. Meals of grilled brook trout become small meals of bread and soup, cut short by the marching of Nazi soldiers. These powerful descriptions of happiness and despair, placed strategically throughout the poem to act as each other’s opposites, create a powerful, moving sestina. With Hecht’s masterful use of overwhelming contrast and repetition, the poem’s joyous tone quickly deteriorates into cynicism, pronounced with his growing disillusionment for humanity. The fluid dynamic of the juxtaposed descriptions...

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