Daniel Hoffman gave a reading of some of his work at the McCabe Library last night to a crowd of roughly 40 people. Hoffman was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1973 to 1974, though the position was then called the Consultant in Poetry of the Library of Congress, and has received numerous other awards during his career. He taught at Swarthmore for ten years, and then moved on to teach twenty-seven more at University of Pennsylvania, where he is the Felix E. Schelling Professor of English Emeritus.
Hoffman was introduced by Professor Peter Schmidt, the Chair of the English Department. In his introduction, Schmidt expressed his admiration for Hoffman’s work, saying that his poetry contained a “lifetime of wisdom.” Hoffman read 15 poems from various periods of his career, including “The 20th Century,” “The Sonnet,” “Rats,” “The Center of Attention,” and “Princess Casamassima.” Some of the poems related to his time at Swarthmore, including “Princess Casamassima,” which is about his former student Cathy Wilkerson, a member of the radical group the Weather Underground.
In association with Hoffman’s reading, the Friends Historical Library put together a one-day only exhibit that tied into the historical sources that Hoffman used in writing his book-length poem “Brotherly Love.” The epic poem deals with William Penn, the Lenni Lenape Indians, and the founding of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1981.