Against the Evidence, I Live By Choice ~ David Ignatow

41jATvIjAMLI was reminded of David Ignatow (1914-1997, American poet and editor) yesterday when I read Luke Prater’s poem about the death of a fly, Calvin’s God, which is well done.

In his poem Luke mentions Ignatow, who wrote I Killed A Fly.

I’m thinking Ignatow has a spare and direct style that is worth studying, especially if you are serious about your own poetry. Here is a sample of his work from a favorite collection. There are a number of people who read here who will relate to this, a good Sunday night read.

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AGAINST THE EVIDENCE

by David Ignatow

As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won’t hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
All my life
I’ve held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
and get a smile, knowing
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the human race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.

© poem and cover art, Wesleyan Poetry Series, used here under fair use

9 thoughts on “Against the Evidence, I Live By Choice ~ David Ignatow

  1. Thank you for this Jamie! This is the second wonderful new (to me) poet I’ve encountered this week. Last Sunday I was in Cambridge (far from home) and pulled a thin book of Jack Gilbert’s poetry from a shelf. A good week indeed. Actually, I just realized you posted this on Sunday… nice coincidence, if one believes in such things.

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    1. Oh, I do appreciate the same sort of thngs.

      Did you read his (Gilbert) “Recovering Amid the Farms” …

      It’s wonderful when we can be happy with these “little” joys, isn’t it?
      … and thank you, Chris!

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      1. I just read it now. Breathtaking (insert a long pause). I was looking for Gustaf Sorbin when I randomly pulled “The Dance Most of All” from the shelf. As I read some of the poems I oh so subtly in that tall row books choked up… Yes, the little joys are wonderful indeed. Enjoy your weekend Jamie!

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  2. I haven’t read anything by the author! From the poem you featured here, he seems like someone i”d love to read more about.

    “I am so much alone
    in the world, I can observe the stars
    or study the breeze, I can count the steps
    on a stair on the way up or down,
    and I can look at another human being
    and get a smile, knowing
    it is for the sake of politeness.”

    This is my favorite!
    I’ll check now the videos Luke posted!
    Thank you for sharing Jamie!

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  3. Wonderful poet, he is, and glad you brought attention to his work here. His unpretentious, profound and simple style is much admired by me. I want to write like that when I grow up. What About Dying? is one of my favourites of his. Life/Death: one cannot exist without the other – morbid preoccupation with just the Death part is emo rubbish in my experience – but with reference to life, and the Human Condition philosophy that results in work like Ignatow’s, achieves disarming depth.

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