Daniel Hoffman author of Beyond Silence: New and Selected Poems, 1948-2003 ($26.95, Louisiana State University Press)
Hoffman presents his favorites among his short poems thematically in eight sections but doesn't say what any section's theme is. He isn't being coy, just granting that readers are smart enough to figure themes out themselves. The first section weighs the twentieth century, especially in the relatively long, virtuosically sustained "The City of Satisfaction," a parable a la Hawthorne's "The Celestial Railroad" about striving for an ideologically promised perfect society. The second section is full of myths and memories of love; the third, of sins, errors, and paths not taken; the fourth, of journeys of personal identity (including one whose Whitman-like aspirations are immediately quashed: "O Personages who move / Among me, why don't you / Guys come on call?"). The fifth salutes and queries the satisfactions of home, community, and the natural world, not forgetting neighbors and memorable characters. The sixth responds to those old, philosophical puzzlers: Why are we here? and Where are we going? In the seventh, Hoffman relishes beloved poets and jazz musicians ("High Society" ranks with Hayden Carruth's bes t jazz poems). The poems in the last section constitute a coda of gratitude for life. Erudite and neighborly, formally adroit even in the occasional free-verse poem, Hoffman is an indispensable American poet.
Daniel Hoffman's ten previous books of poems include Darkening Water and Hang-Gliding from Helicon. He served as Consultant in Poetry of the Library of Congress, the appointment now called Poet Laureate of the United States, in 1973-74 and is Felix E. Schelling Professor of English Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania.
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