Jennifer Michael Hecht

Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2002


Tonight there must be people who are getting what they want.
I let my oars fall into the water.
Good for them. Good for them, getting what they want.

The night is so still that I forget to breathe.
The dark air is getting colder. Birds are leaving.
Tonight there are people getting just what they need.
The air is so still that it seems to stop my heart.
I remember you in a black and white photograph
taken this time of some year. You were leaning against a 
     half-shed tree,
standing in the leaves the tree had lost.
When I finally exhale it takes forever to be over.
Tonight, there are people who are so happy,
that they have forgotten to worry about tomorrow.

Somewhere, people have entirely forgotten about tomorrow.
My hand trails in the water.
I should not have dropped those oars. Such a soft wind.

David Lehman on Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht's vivacious first book, The Next Ancient World, is the work of a sophisticated time-traveler who enjoys mediating between the distant past and the unknowable future. A professional historian, Hecht lets her poems wander across the divide of centuries ("Waiting to Happen"), where they may eavesdrop on Aristotle and Nietzsche ("God and Animals") or sneak into the garden of Eden ("History"). Her subjects range from carnal to scientific knowledge, from innocence as a legal concept to the frankly speculative "reason you so often in literature have a naked woman / walk out of her house that way." Hecht writes in forms traditional (the sonnet, the villanelle) and made-up (a poem fetchingly titled "Please Answer All Three of the Following Essay Questions" is in the form of a final examination). Her poems excite thinking— they are vehicles of a restlessly curious intellect— and they never forget the poet's categorical imperative: to delight and amuse as well as to instruct the reader.

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