Born in New York City and educated at Bard College and Columbia, Hecht served in Europe and Japan in the U.S. army. He taught for a number of years at the University of Rochester and Georgetown University. Hecht wrote several books of criticism, including a study of W.H. Auden, and translated both classical and contemporary writers. Often learned and witty in his poetry, he has occasionally taken up more difficult subjects, as with the Holocaust poems "More Light! More Light!" and “The Book of Yolek.” He was one of contemporary poetry’s more elegant craftsmen, excelling in sustained technical ingenuity and willing to use the most complex traditional forms to tackle difficult subjects.