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David Ignatow

Born in Brooklyn on February 7, 1914, David Ignatow spent most of his life in the New York City area.

He was the author of numerous books of poetry, including Living Is What I Wanted: Last Poems (BOA Editions, 1999), At My Ease: Uncollected Poems of the Fifties and Sixties (BOA Editions, 1998), I Have a Name(Wesleyan Poetry Series, 1996), Against the Evidence: Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (Wesleyan Poetry Series, 1994), Despite the Plainness of the Day: Love Poems(Mill Hunk Books, 1991), Shadowing the Ground(Wesleyan Poetry Series, 1991), and New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985 (Wesleyan University Press, 1986), among many others.

During his literary career, Ignatow worked as an editor of American Poetry ReviewAnalyticBeloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and as poetry editor of The Nation.

He taught at the New School for Social Research, the University of Kentucky, the University of Kansas, Vassar College, York College of the City University of New York, New York University, and Columbia University. He was president of the Poetry Society of America from 1980 to 1984 and poet-in-residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in 1987.

Ignatow’s many honors include a Bollingen Prize, two Guggenheim fellowships, the John Steinbeck Award, and a National Institute of Arts and Letters award “for a lifetime of creative effort.” He received the Shelley Memorial Award (1966), the Frost Medal (1992), and the William Carlos Williams Award (1997) of the Poetry Society of America.

He died on November 17, 1997, at his home in East Hampton, New York.(poets.org)

THIS is a really freaky poem. Pure shock gets its meaning across. I used to watch “You Are There” with Walter Cronkite, but never saw anything like this. How long, I wonder, before we revive the gladiator games and really do this sort of thing on TV? (I know… I’m a worst-case-scenario person!)


The calmness of the TV anchorman, Ignatow says, teaches all citizens how not to feel the horror of what is happening.

A First On TV
For Walter Cronkite

This is the 20th century,
you are there, preparing to skin
a human being alive. Your part
will be to remain calm
and to participate with the flayer
in his work as you follow his hand,
the slow, delicate way with the knife
between the skin and the flash,
and see the red meat emerge.
Tiny rivulets of blood will flow
from the naked flash and over the hands
of the flyer. Your eyes will waiver
and turn away but turn back to witness
the unprecedented, the incredible,
for you are there
and your part will be to remain calm.

You will smash at the screen
with your fist and try to reach
this program on the phone, like a madman
gripping it by the neck
as if it were the neck of the flayer
and you will scream into the receiver,
“Get me station ZXY at once, at once,
do you hear” But your part
will be to remain calm.


Picture Source: Poeticous