“A major work, a record of our era,” wrote Maxine Kumin in awarding the Paterson Poetry Prize toHang-Gliding from Helicon, Daniel Hoffman’s selected poems a dozen years ago. Of Darkening Water, his first collection since then, Fred Chappell observes, “These poems have all the poet’s familiar virtues—clarity, grace where desired, accuracy of visual detail and of dialogue, and a formal mastery so deft that playfulness comes easily. Hoffman’s dominant theme lies in the contrast (and often the necessary balance) between the primal, ancient, legendary strains of our culture and the new-fangled, distracting, but genuine imperatives of contemporaneity. Hoffman uses older forms and traditions to make something new and durable.”
The range of Hoffman’s sensibility includes the primordial sludge from which life emerged and the coin-filled fountain of a suburban shopping mall, an enduring New England garden and the dancing woman in an ancient cave. His luminous poems create memorable characters, exploring man’s relationship to nature and to time. Seemingly effortless juxtapositions create rewarding surprises.
This refined collection by one of our finest poets reverberates with intelligence, close observation, and a deep respect for the possibilities of language. It is a treasure for Hoffman’s many longtime readers as well as for those discovering his work for the first time.
Former poet laureate, Daniel Hoffman (1923—2013) published fourteen books of poetry, including The Whole Nine Yards, Beyond Silence, and Brotherly Love, a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His honors include the Arthur Anse prize for “a distinctive poet” from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and, from the Sewanee Review, the Aiken-Taylor Award for Contemporary American Poetry. He was the author of many critical studies, including Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, also a National Book Award finalist. He taught at Swarthmore College and at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the Felix Schelling Professor of English Emeritus.