THE ONE IN THE MANY: A Poet's Memoirs by David Ignatow

THE ONE IN THE MANY: A Poet's Memoirs

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An overly terse biography plus a barely related collection of writings from New York poet Ignatow, packaged together as ""memoirs."" The 1977 winner of the Bollingen Prize and one-time editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal gets off to a fine start with a frank assessment of his working-class Jewish background. The son of a bookbinder blacklisted for union sympathies, Ignatow was strongly aware of financial pressure throughout a childhood spent moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in Brooklyn during the 1920's and the Depression. The curse of money and family obligations intensified when Ignatow's father opened his own bindery and Ignatow became a reluctant employee, all the while trying to gain some ground as a poet on the side. While Ignatow clearly despised the dismal routine of business life, the aggressive hum of New York's postwar scramble for money and place seems to have provided the crucible in which some of his best work flourished. However, what starts out here as a genuinely interesting autobiography, admirably self-critical in places, falls apart somewhere in the 1940's; almost nothing is said of Ignatow's experiences in the 50's and the thread is picked up with the beginning of the author's new teaching career in the 60's. The truncated project is shored up unconvincingly with a string of vaguely connected essays on literary figures ranging from Whitman to Bly. In the end, then, an unfinished and unsatisfactory portrait.

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1988
Publisher: Wesleyan Univ. Press