Jennifer Michael Hecht is “a minor famous atheist,” as she puts it. Her bestselling book Doubt: A History made her a cult figure among skeptics and catapulted her into the public speaking circuit.
At a New School poetry forum last week, the popular philosopher, professor and BAP blogger spoke to the home crowd, musing on her career, poetry and soul (more on that later). In addition to life after Doubt, she discussed her latest nonfiction project, Stay, and her most recent book of poems, Funny.
Hecht, the rare poet with a Columbia Ph.D. in the History of Science, read from her first book of poems, The Next Ancient World, which serves as a love letter to future anthropologists.
In “Please Answer All Three Of The Following Essay Questions” she asks: “If someone wanted to make you/ slap them, hard, would it be better for him or/ her to say that your father didn’t like to hear you/ sing, or to say that your mother purposefully pricked/ her finger and bled into the coleslaw she brought/ to the physics-department picnics every year.”
Hecht recited “Villanelle If You Want to Be a Bad-Ass” and “Cannibal Villanelle,” prompting moderator David Lehman to ask why she delights in the form.
“I fall in love with lines,” she said, “and the Villanelle repeats the line.”