- Daniel Hoffman
Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements perhaps appertain to eternity alone.—Edgar A. Poe, “The Poetic Principle”
Perhaps already then, at the age of fifteen, I knew that the ultimate enemy of our happiness is Time.—Daniel Hoffman, Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe
Daniel Hoffman, poet, Poe scholar, author of numerous books of poetry and criticism, and Felix E. Schelling Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, died March 30, 2013, in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was eighty-nine years old.
Born April 3, 1923, in New York City, Dan served in the Army Air Corps and earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University. He taught at Columbia, Swarthmore, and, for many years, the University of Pennsylvania. He published ten books of poetry including Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948–2003 (2003); Darkening Water (2002); Middens of the Tribe (1995); Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems, 1948–1988, winner of the 1988 Paterson Poetry Prize; Brotherly Love (1981), a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award nominee; The Center of Attention (1974); Broken Laws (1970); Striking the Stones (1968); The City of Satisfactions (1963); A Little Geste, and Other Poems (1960); and An Armada of Thirty Whales (1954), [End Page 259] chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He is the author of Zone of the Interior: A Memoir, 1942–1947 (2000) and seven volumes of criticism, which include Words to Create a World: Interviews, Essays, and Reviews on Contemporary Poetry (1993); Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (1971), nominated for a National Book Award; Barbarous Knowledge: Myth in the Poetry of Yeats, Graves, and Muir (1967); Form and Fable in American Fiction (1961); and The Poetry of Stephen Crane (1957). Hoffman received the Hazlett Memorial Award, the Memorial Medal of the Maygar P.E.N. for his translations of contemporary Hungarian poetry, grants from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1973 to 1974 (the appointment now called the Poet Laureate) and was a Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets.
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In Poe circles, Dan was best known for his widely admired Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe, a reader response and explication of Poe’s works that ironically recounts a very young Dan scrawling, “I hate Poe,” across Poe’s picture. Dan’s Poe book helped undo the damage of the dismissive attitudes of critics like T. S. Eliot who accused Poe of a “lack of coherence” or Aldous Huxley who felt that Poe is all gimmick. Poe himself insisted that it takes a poet to know a poet. To this end, Dan in his Poe critique convincingly demonstrates that Poe’s works do have cohesion, that Poe is rehearsing Eureka in many of his early works and that to understand Poe’s entire oeuvre, one must read Eureka. To the [End Page 260] complaint that most of Poe’s works are short, I once heard Dan answer that Poe is a “genius of compression.”
Dan was always enthusiastic when discussing and writing about poetry in general and Poe in particular. He was involved with the Philadelphia Poe site in all of its incarnations: when it was first operated by the Richard Gimbel Foundation, then the City of Philadelphia, and the current steward, the National Park Service. He relished a memory of guiding Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges through the Poe house, when the blind Borges commented in Poe’s basement, “I don’t have to have eyes to see Edgar Poe in this space.”
In 1999, Dan rekindled his relationship with the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic...