Introduction for Daniel Hoffman

Gregory Djanikian, Director of the undergraduate Creative Writing Program
October 24, 2002

It is indeed a pleasure to welcome you here today and to be here with you in celebration of Daniel Hoffman, poet, editor, scholar, translator, memoirist, Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets, past Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a post now called Poet Laureate) teacher, jazz enthusiast, clarinetist extraordinaire, and founding father and guiding spirit of the creative writing program at Penn. Apart from his many other accomplishments, he has written some 23 books, and even a partial listing of them will tell us how productive and wide-ranging he has been. He has published

I remember it was in the late Sixties that I first met Daniel Hoffman. He had come to Penn and begun teaching, along with his literature courses, a poetry workshop, the first course of its kind to be offered at the University, and as it turns out, the foundation upon which our Creative Writing Program has been built. I was a bleary-eyed undergraduate then whose announced intention was to be an architect but whose longings were for poetry and the more occult constructions of sentence and stanza. Poetic careers on campus were made or broken then by whether you were invited into Dan's workshop or not, and I confess, it took me three desperate tries on my fledgling wings to finally clear the sill of his room where I and 6 or 7 others that year began our serious apprenticeship to poetry and were initiated into the high mystery of art.

That class, along with others that he taught in succeeding years, was a sanctum for many of us, out of which we emerged charged with our own passionate intensity for poetry and a sacred, arcane knowledge of its power. Is it any wonder that so many who passed through his classrooms went on to publish their own books of poems: Margaret Ryan, W.B. Patrick, Michael Jennings, Craig Williamson, Judy Moffett, Ann Hostetler, Geoffrey Brock, J. Allyn Rosser, Edward Hirsch, Carole Bernstein, David Moolten, Darcy Cummings, Deborah Burnham, Jeanne Murray Walker, Susan Stewart.

How many of us have been smudged for the better by Daniel Hoffman's presence. Notable poet and critic, he, for many of us, has also been mentor and exemplar, father figure and wise friend, an eminence who with abiding sincerity has been interested in us and our work, and has touched us deeply. If Dan had not been part of our lives, we, I think, in our diminishment would have had to imagine him. Isn't it wonderful, especially for those of us who have counted on his beneficence so often, that we need only put our hands together and welcome now the man himself. Daniel Hoffman.