TREAD THE DARK by David Ignatow


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David Ignatow's tenth volume of poetry--one long poem divided into 90 sections--is less illuminating than disappointing. As in earlier books, he is preoccupied with a Whitmanesque prosiness which has usually worked to achieve a breathless, singing effect. Here, however, it serves to flatten rhythms, often rendering the content of a poem facetious or senseless (""I existed before my mind realized me/and when I became known to myself/it was with the affection for warmth/ beside a radiator. . .""). The book's major theme is death, manifested either as blood and guts (""I find I have opened a vein in warm water and watch with curiosity the dark red flow. . ."") or as a neo-surreal silence like that of W. S. Merwin and Mark Strand (to the extent that ""The Vase"" becomes an ""enclosure upon emptiness,"" after Merwin). Ignatow is effective when he lightens up on his subject matter and gains a perspective on it. In poem #52, we find the speaker does not die, as expected, but turns into a zebra--an act which lets lgnatow become humorously objective about his life as a human being. However, such subtle handling of subject matter is atypical. Any visible strength is ultimately overwhelmed by the self-indulgences of imitation and overwriting.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1978
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown