Hang-Gliding from Helicon (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Daniel Hoffman’s Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems, 1948-1988 is a generous book and a personal book. It not only shows but also tells where the poet has been, what he has thought and done in his lifetime. It confronts the signs of age the poet observes, and it examines the shifts and changes he has undergone over a long career of teaching and writing. It allows the reader to trace the poet’s ideas and to observe the development of his craft. Moreover, it reveals, particularly in the section called “Hang-Gliding from Helicon,” who, among writers, have remained as influences. The book is a summing up of one man’s achievement, and the summation should leave no doubt that Hoffman belongs among the major poets of his generation.
The book itself is elegantly, rather than sumptuously, designed and produced. It is a straightforward production and lacks introductory comment, notes, and diversions. The several sections are headed with the titles of the books from which the poems are drawn, followed by the years of the book’s publication. For the most part, the poems are short. The book’s final section, containing the forty-three new poems, is long enough to justify a separate book. It contains some of Hoffman’s best work, and those poems bring to a satisfying conclusion this retrospective of the poet’s life.
(The entire section is 2046 words.)
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