Daniel Hoffman was born in New York City on April 3, 1923. He published numerous books of poetry, most recently, The Whole Nine Yards: Longer Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2009) and Makes You Stop and Think: Sonnets (George Braziller, 2005). Other titles by Hoffman include Beyond Silence: Selected Shorter Poems 1948-2003 (2003); Darkening Water (2002); Middens of the Tribe (1995); Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems, 1948-1988, winner of the 1988 Paterson Poetry Prize; Brotherly Love, (1981) a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award nominee; The Center of Attention (1974); Broken Laws (1970); Striking the Stones (1968); The City of Satisfactions (1963); A Little Geste and Other Poems (1960); and An Armada of Thirty Whales (1954), chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Hoffman adapted Brotherly Love as the libretto for Ezra Laderman's oratorio (2000), and published his translation from the Italian of Ruth Domino's A Play of Mirrors (2002).
Hoffman also wrote Zone of the Interior: A Memoir, 1942-1947 (2000) and seven volumes of criticism, which include Words to Create a World: Interviews, Essays, and Reviews on Contemporary Poetry (1993); Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe (1971), which was nominated for a National Book Award; Barbarous Knowledge: Myth in the Poetry of Yeats, Graves, and Muir (1967); Form and Fable in American Fiction (1961); and The Poetry of Stephen Crane (1957).
In describing Hoffman's poems, Stephen Dunn said, "In them is a lifetime of careful observance, the voice rarely raised yet passionate in its precisions, the man behind it enough a lover of life to have been properly critical of the way we've lived it."
He received the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry from The Sewanee Review, the Hazlett Memorial Award, the Memorial Medal of the Maygar P.E.N. for his translations of contemporary Hungarian poetry, grants from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2005, Hoffman received the Arthur Rense Poetry Prize "for an exceptional poet" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Hoffman served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1973 to 1974 (the appointment now called the Poet Laureate) and was a Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets. From 1988 to 1999 Hoffman was Poet in Residence at St. John the Divine, where he administered the American Poets' Corner. Until 1996, he taught as the Felix E. Schelling Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where he also resides.
Hoffman died on March 30, 2013 in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He was 89.