Beyond Silence (Magill Book Reviews)
Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948-2003 contains selections from seven of Daniel Hoffman’s previous volumes, and it proves to be a provocative collection of meditations about nature, history, and art. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, it allows the reader to trace the major veins of Hoffman’s work. The eight sections provide a rich variety of shorter (not necessarily short) poems on literary figures, historical figures, places, personal passages, and other subjects. The mingling of personal and mythic, external and interior landscapes makes the poems emotionally rewarding, and their careful craft—many of them flexibly formal, some free verse—make them appealing to the mind’s ear.
The collection includes more than fifty years of poetry and came out in the poet’s eightieth year. It is rewarding to compare early and late poems on the same theme, and so see how Hoffman’s perspective has changed and how it has not. The tone, its quiet restraint yielding glimpses of passion, does not change; the sense of balance and order in the poems extends throughout the volume.
To many the most rewarding section may be the poems addressed to other artists, in which he seems to evoke the shades of earlier poets, writers, and musicians only to cajole them and argue with them. The title of one captures the spirit: “Instructions to a Medium, to be transmitted to the shade of W. B. Yeats, the latter having responded...
(The entire section is 301 words.)
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Beyond Silence (Magill's Literary Annual 2004)
Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems, 1948-2003 is a provocative collection of reflective poems. Arranged thematically rather than chronologically, the book precludes easy tracing of the poet’s growth; instead it allows the full force of the poet’s preoccupations and image clusters to affect the reader. “Thought tends to collect in pools,” Wallace Stevens said in his “Adagia,” and each of the sections in Beyond Silence is indeed a kind of thought-pool in which related ideas and images play off of one another beneath the surface, allowing glimmers of insight to rise up.
This volume appeared for Hoffman’s eightieth birthday. He has published eight books of poems and two book-length poems as well as eight books of nonfiction. He has worked innovatively throughout the latter part of his career with the form of the long poem, but this collection limits itself to “shorter poems,” even though the works it includes are not all short. Its contents are taken from his collections of shorter poems; he does not prove excerpts from his book-length poems, Brotherly Love, about William Penn’s treaty with the Indians, and Middens of the Tribe, a novel in verse.
Despite the urban background of the poet, these poems are not exclusively, or even predominantly, of the city. Many are poems of mythic landscape which express a modernist vision of both urban and rural catastrophe. Others are poems of history,...
(The entire section is 1560 words.)