Hoffman, Daniel (Gerard) 1923-
HOFFMAN, Daniel (Gerard) 1923-
PERSONAL: Born April 3, 1923, in New York, NY; son of Daniel and Frances (Beck) Hoffman; married Elizabeth McFarland, May 22, 1948; children: Kate, Macfarlane. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1947, M.A., 1949, Ph.D., 1956.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
CAREER: Columbia University, New York, NY, lecturer in English, 1947-48; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, lecturer in English, 1948-50; Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, instructor in English, 1950-52; Columbia University, instructor in English, 1952-56; Faculte des Lettres, Dijon, France, visiting professor of American studies, 1956-57; Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, assistant professor, 1957-60, associate professor, 1960-65, professor of English literature, 1965-66; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, professor of English, 1966—, poet-inresidence, 1978—. Phi Beta Kappa poet at Tufts University, 1963, Swarthmore College, 1964, Columbia University, 1966, and at College of William and Mary, 1973. Elliston Lecturer in Poetry, University of Cincinnati, 1964; lecturer, Sixth International School of Yeats Studies, Sligo, Ireland, 1965. Fellow of School of Letters, Indiana University, 1959. Poetry consultant to Library of Congress, 1973-74. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1943-46; received Legion of Merit.
MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America, English Institute, Academy of American Poets (chancellor, 1972—), Authors League of America, Authors Guild (member of council, 1981—), PEN, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, 1953, for An Armada of Thirty Whales; Ansley prize, 1957; American Council of Learned Societies research fellowship, 1961-62, 1966-67; Athenaeum of Philadelphia literary award, 1963, for The City of Satisfactions; Columbia University Medal for Excellence, 1964; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant in poetry, 1967; Ingram-Merrill Foundation grant in poetry, 1971-72; National Endowment for the Humanities research fellow, 1975-76; Memorial Medal, Hungarian PEN, 1980; Guggenheim fellowship, 1983; Hazlett memorial award, 1984; Paterson Poetry prize, 1989, Academy of American Poets, 1972.
A Little Geste and Other Poems, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1960.
Striking the Stones, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1968.
Broken Laws, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1970.
The Center of Attention, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.
Able Was I ere I Saw Elba: Selected Poems 1954-1974, Hutchinson (London, England), 1977.
Brotherly Love, Random House (New York, NY), 1981.
Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems 1948-1988, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1988.
Middens of the Tribe, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1995.
Zone of the Interior: A Memoir, 1942-1947, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2000.
Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage and Others Stories Harper (New York, NY), 1957.
American Poetry and Poetics: Poems and Critical Documents from the Puritans to Robert Frost, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1962.
(With Samuel Hynes) English Literary Criticism: Romantic and Victorian, Appleton Century Crofts (New York, NY), 1966.
New Poets 1970, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA), 1970.
University and College Prizes, 1967-72, Academy of American Poets (New York, NY), 1974.
Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1979.
Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams: The University of Pennsylvania Conference Papers, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1983.
Also contributor in Corgi Modern Poets in Focus 4, edited by Jeremy Robson, Corgi (London, England), 1971.
Paul Bunyan: Last of the Frontier Demigods, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1952.
The Poetry of Stephen Crane, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1957.
Form and Fable in American Fiction, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1961.
Barbarous Knowledge: Myth in the Poetry of Yeats, Graves, and Muir, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1967.
Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1972.
Writing, Harvard University Press (Boston, MA), 1979.
Faulkner's Country Matters: Folklore and Fable in Yoknapatawpha, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1989.
SIDELIGHTS: "[Daniel] Hoffman," observed Judith Moffett in Poetry, "is one of the minority of true writer/scholar/teacher hybrids whose intelligence turns as naturally to the crafting of creative scholarship as to poetry (if not perhaps with equal pleasure)." Josephine Jacobsen said in Poetry that in "reading the entire Hoffman poetic oeuvre, one is aware of three major strands that knit into a strong texture: myth, history and the immediate experience, personal and colloquial. It's rich fusion; one thinks immediately of other poets wedded more or less faithfully to one of the three. Hoffman's polygamy works well. He never writes without that sense of the dead which was so precious to Auden; he has as thorough a response to myth as Muir himself, and he can write of a personal shock or rage with total directness. What he once wrote of Robert Graves is true of his own work. Both combine 'a Dionysian compulsion to belief with an Apollonian clarity of presentation.' … Hoffman lets you—forces you—to understand his attitude toward his own work, and by implication, toward poetry, without any of the manifestoes, overt or implied, of which we have had a plethora." Richard Howard in Poetry described Hoffman's work as "gnomic, glyptic, emblematic, … hypertrophic," complementing the poet's examination of "the physical and mental violence with which we have become overgrown." Howard added: "This is a poetry which punishes itself into shape—into shapeliness…. [Hoffman] writes poems which will enable him to oppose mere bulwarks by corrosion, to counter decorum by perversity." A Virginia Quarterly Review critic observed that "Hoffman is generally at his best when away from country life, for in urban surroundings his language frees itself of the crippling mannerisms and the contrived quality which make unconvincing most of the poems dealing with wildlife or rural living."
According to Jacobsen, Hoffman's work in The Center of Attention "demonstrates not only considerable psychological insight and sense of drama, but more important, a sense of all the nuances of pace." She felt that the author "decided that for his purpose, his prosody will be highly flexible, its ear versed in, but not subservient to rules. The techniques are as varied as the poems, but there is a great deal of tough skill which at its happiest has the ease of an acrobat's control, the smooth sum of a dozen hidden efforts." John Reed concluded that The Center of Attention "will eventually be seen as a transitional collection, suffering the consequences of a poetic search that began with Striking the Stones. It is a collection of poems that reveals a need for some larger organizing purpose in which individual poems can become vital parts."
Hoffman's collection of poems Able Was I ere I Saw Elba "identifies this poet as one who, choosing to sing after enduring his own journeys through the dark places, has come a pretty fair way along the road toward his admirable goals," according to reviewer Moffett in Poetry. Other critics refer to Hoffman's creative use of language as an effective poetic device. Noted Andrew Waterman in the Times Literary Supplement, "The palindromic title … intimates Hoffman's delight in verbal play; also perhaps a lack of stylistic 'development' which, given his range, virtuosity and witty inventiveness, hardly matters." Waterman added, "[The poet's] zestful verbal flamboyance, supple use of rhyme and other sound-effects, linguistic quirks, while never so inordinate as to exasperate or baffle the reader, make the processes of his writing vital and interesting." John Alexander Allen in the Hollins Critic commented that the title "is appropriate in at least two ways," observing: "With its reference to Napoleon's enforced residence on Elba, the old palindrome suggests the principal theme of Hoffman's work—exile from 'another country,' one that he has known as though in a dream and to which he will one day return triumphantly. As for the fact that the title can be read both ways, Hoffman's work … not only can but should be read both in chronological and in antichronological order."
Brotherly Love chronicles the founding of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, in particular, from where it draws its title. Making extensive use of primary sources, Hoffman reconstructs historical elements in verse with some prose accounts added. Monroe K. Spears, writing in the Washington Post Book World, noted that Hoffman's use of allusion "is the most brilliant since [T. S.] Eliot's." Spears further observed: "To perceive the poetry as historical documents and reveal it without losing the historical immediacy that only such documents can give is a technique not invented but carried to new heights by Hoffman. His use of it is much more extensive, complex, and subtle than that of such pioneers as [Ezra] Pound." About the work in its entirety, Spears stated: "Hoffman's poem seems to me an astonishing feat of historical and literary imagination, and at the same time a work that should appeal to a very wide audience…. Brotherly Love is not Paradise Lost, but it is perhaps the nearest equivalent now possible." Stating, "I have not even begun, in this brief review, to describe it properly; with each rereading it grows, expands, and develops richer meanings and further resonances in the mind," Spears concluded that "if it isn't an American epic, I don't know how one could be written now." Paul Breslin wrote in the New York Times Book Review that the work "contains a good deal of distinguished writing," including several "deeply moving" passages. Breslin concluded that "the balance between Mr. Hoffman the scholar and Mr. Hoffman the poet … is achieved often enough to make Brotherly Love … an estimable achievement."
Keith Walters, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, summarized Hoffman's work as vital and constant: "Hoffman's poetry has come from places he does not know and cannot control, but it has come, and living up to its vows, it endures both for him and his readers. His poetry is 'a sort of singing' [from 'The Poem'] because it is 'a kind of singing' as well as 'not quite singing,' a success that the poet knows is complete and yet incomplete at the same time." Adding that Hoffman "has explored 'imagination's power to create,' particularly in response to the culture of modern America," Walters stated, "As he continues to interpret that culture, he more clearly sees and more completely reflects its intricacies, its contradictions, its tensions, and its values in both his poetry and his prose."
Hoffman once commented in CA: "I'd wanted to be free to tell the truths of feeling to discover and reveal the shapes, the patterns, and purposes of life of which we aren't aware."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 6, 1976, Volume 13, 1980.
Contemporary Poets, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Dictionary of American Scholars, 9th edition, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume V: American Poets since World War II, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.
Howard, Richard, Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1969, enlarged edition, 1980.
Lowe, Michael, Daniel Hoffman: A Comprehensive Bibliography, Norwood (New York, NY), 1973.
Writers Directory, 14th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Booklist, May 15, 1974.
Book World, May 5, 1974.
Hollins Critic, October, 1978.
Hudson Review, autumn, 1974.
New Republic, April 6, 1974.
New York Times Book Review, January 12, 1969; November 22, 1970; August 11, 1974; October 28, 1979; March 22, 1981.
Ontario Review, fall, 1974.
Poetry, April, 1968; February, 1969; July, 1971; March, 1975; June, 1978.
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 2000, review of Zone of the Interior, p. 62.
Saturday Review, December 26, 1970.
Southern Review, summer, 1975.
Times Literary Supplement, July 6, 1967; July 29, 1977; September 5, 1980.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1968.
Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1981.
Yale Review, winter, 1971.
Academy of American Poets, http://www.poets.org/ (July 24, 2001), "Daniel Hoffman."*