FACING THE TREE by David Ignatow


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Ignatow is a forceful poet who prides himself on a prolonged contact with reality: city life, married life, the workaday world. He writes a colloquial, tortured sort of speech, intimate, direct, yet touched with parables, maxims, the wonder and truth of experience as he's learned it: ""whether we marry for love/ and wake up to find love is a task,/ or whether for convenience, to find love/ must be won over. . . ."" These new poems, looser in structure but more adventurous than earlier ones, take surprising risks in subject and language, are often both surreal and political, and convey striking pictures of a private man caught up in public events. Fortunately he continues to have, as James Dickey once wrote, the ability to infuse the drama of contemporaneity ""with the ageless Old Testament fatality of death and judgment: to make the traditional moral issues of the race count in an environment where seemingly they have ceased to."" His acquaintance with the ""unchangeable laws,"" not through doctrine but as a rebellious spirit who is constantly being tested, creates a quiet, haggard intensity as he sits with his ""back to the insane world"" and reads ""in my poetry that fear teaches/ me to love and that love also/ is the beginning of fear/ so that I find myself upon a cutting edge."" His predicament of course is further heightened when we remember that Ignatow is not young, indeed found himself as a poet only in his late fifties after many years spent in the business world. He is a man too old to lie to himself, wryly accepting his condition as ""half a suicide,"" yet knowing there is ""gentleness in making do with the known facts,"" that though flesh and bones become ""partners of stone and dirt,"" the final refuge, the saving joy is always ""identity with others.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1974
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown