This is rarely an easy process. When it comes to poetry, "some of my scientific colleagues say 'If I only had the time I could do it.' They don't know how difficult it is. My poems go through many more drafts than my science articles."
This labor has paid off. In his second career, Hoffmann has published five books of his work (including The Metamict State, and Gaps and Verges, both from the University of Central Florida Press), and individual poems in The Paris Review and The Kenyon Review. For this interview, he called from the lone phone at an artist's colony in California, where he'd just spent the morning writing a whimsical poem ("of no importance whatsoever") in which the narrator finds himself talking with a brain.
Despite having rekindled this other love, Hoffmann has no regrets about choosing chemistry as a young man. Indeed, seeing other artists at the colony reminds him that "you can make a living as a chemist rather than as a poet."