Ignatow, David

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IGNATOW, DAVID (1914–1997), U.S. poet. Ignatow was born in Brooklyn. His poems are often accounts of the particular, especially city life. Its crowds, its noise, its spectacles are balanced by the poet's growing solace in nature. His poetry is often short, marked by plain diction, and common subjects such as family, work, and mortality – the shared lot of humankind. His poetry offers no simple resolution of problems but instead presents them with a bold starkness, as for example in "An Allusion" and "For All Friends," in which no solace can be found and no quarrel with the self can be stilled. Ignatow's "In a Reply" says it well: "my poems are hard to live with." A good example is Ignatow's transformation of the traditional ethical poem for a child, in which the poet's love becomes a song for possibilities. In "The Future" Ignatow wishes strength for his daughter yet cautions her to "prepare to live without me." His poems also affirm the nature of the given: resignation is acceptance. As he puts it in "The World," all that we experience is "difficult to give up." His first volume of poetry, Poems, appeared in 1948. Among his works are Say Pardon (1961), Figures of the Human (1964), Rescue the Dead (1968), Tread the Dark (1978), The One in the Many: A Poet's Memoirs (1988), and Living Is What I Wanted: Last Poems (1999). Ralph Mills, Jr. edited The Notebooks of David Ignatow (1973) and Open between Us (1980).


G. Pacernik (ed.), Talking Together: Letters of David Ignatow, 1946 to 1990 (1992); V. Terris (ed.), Meaningful Differences: The Poetry and Prose of David Ignatow (1994).

[Lewis Fried (2nd ed.)]