issue 27 > nonfiction > hoffman > bridgford
Daniel Hoffman at West Chesterby Kim Bridgford
At West Chester this year, as part of our nineteenth annual conference, we will be celebrating the 90th birthday of Daniel Hoffman. As part of that celebration, Dana Gioia, X. J. Kennedy, David Mason, Marilyn Nelson, and Jill Allyn Rosser will speak, among others.
Although I had been attending West Chester for many years before becoming director of the conference, I grew to know Dan better through the work of his wife, Elizabeth McFarland. I had the opportunity to review her book Over the Summer Water for the Summer 2008 issue of Mezzo Cammin, the magazine that I edit devoted to formalist poetry by women. Because the book was published posthumously, it was Dan who was able to enjoy seeing the work come to fruition. Dan was tireless in making sure that the writing found a place before the public, and this says much about his character.
During his years at the conference—he has been a stalwart supporter since the beginning—he has influenced many members of our conference community. West Chester is about grandeur and kindness, and Dan epitomizes both. So many people have told me "Dan Hoffman was my teacher," and in this business that simple sentence means so much: not only helping a student to find the right word, but, in the end, changing the direction of careers and lives. As Elizabeth McFarland writes, "Memory wears retrospective clothes." This year, writers are looking back at the ninety years of Daniel Hoffman with appreciation and nostalgia.
There has always been a courtesy to Dan that I have admired. In a writerly world of egos, Dan does not always have to be in the spotlight. He believes in supporting younger writers, in creating the collective enterprise. This, in the end, fosters the highest values of community.
I can't think of a person I'd rather throw a party for.