(from the Best American Poetry 1994, ed A. R. Ammons):
Roald Hoffmann was born in Zloczow, Poland in 1937. After escaping form a Nazi labor camp in January 1943, he and his mother hid in the false attic of a Ukrainian schoolhouse, never stepping foot outside until the Soviets arrived in June 1944. The only sunlight came through a hole where a single brick had been removed. He and his mother and stepfather made their way to the United States in 1949. He was educated at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Columbia, and Harvard, and has taught chemistry at Cornell University since 1965. He was awarded the 1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his idea that the ease of chemical transfories and amations could be predicted from the symmetries and asymmetries of electron "orbitals" in complex molecules. The work he did in the mid-1960s with his late mentor, Robert Burns Woodward, proved essential to the synthesis of Vitamin B-12. He lives in Ithaca, NY.
Hoffmann was introduced to poetry by Mark Van Doren at Columbia. His own poems began to appear in the 1980s. Two collections have been published: The Metamict State (1987) and Gaps and Verges (1990), both from the University of Central Press. "I take some heat from my chemist friends because I write poetry, which they consider just something to do when you're sulking," Hoffmann told Malcom W. Brown of The New York Times (July 6, 1993). "But they should take a look at the respective literatures of chemistry and poetry. The acceptance rate for scientific articles submitted to the best chemical journal in the world is about sixty percent. The acceptance rate for poems sent to even a mediocre poetry journal is about five percent. Furthermore, the poetry editors don't even give you a peer review and critique. They just turn you down flat."