ANDREWS (1992) I Don't Have Any Paper strongly displays Bruce Andrews's avant-garde conviction that political art, in order to effect social change, must forcefully alter the reader's consciousness while simultaneously inviting her or his active participation. An embodiment of language school philosophy involving the materiality of language, the poem contains syntactical and semantic disruptions, shocking colloquial phrases, and ironic juxtapositions. As much themati-cally concerned with politics as with enacting social critique, I Don't Have Any Paper aims at the radical kind of writing Andrews believes possible only when one accepts the notion that language is not pure, or transparent, but reflects dominant political ideologies. The broken-up rhythms and irregular lines work, much like the poetry of Charles olson, to shift focus to how language constructs one's perception of the world; yet, as in the poems of Clark coolidge, these techniques simultaneously underscore the arbitrariness of language and its connection to ongoing political abuses.
Comprised of 100 experimental prose poems (see prosody and free verse), each about three pages in length, I Don't Have Any Paper is often cited as Andrews's most accessible work; the volume is also noted for its aggressive, at times hostile, tone. With such titles as "America Shops," "Communism Is a Morale Problem," and "This Unity Sounds Posturepedic to Me," I Don't Have Any Paper uses wordplay to reveal the hypocrisy and vacuousness of consumer culture, as well as to underscore the fragmented nature of national identity. Andrews employs parody to illustrate how political beliefs reveal themselves in everyday speech; he frequently combines sexual and scatological puns with financial jargon, and he rewrites popular slogans to expose imperialist desires for blind gratification. Phrases, such as "Sink the boat people!" ("Help Defeat Your Country"), "Tear-gas the middle class. Blonds have more enemas" ("Learn to Be Dispensible"), and "'Control the budget & you have them by the predestined—" ("Oh, Glaze Me Big!"), attack American values, exposing them as contributors to and perpetuators of oppression.
By means of ironic pronouncements, Andrews's speaker takes on the voices of those in power in order to expose abuses. In addition, as Bob perelman points out, Andrews's poems illustrate the philosopher François "Lyotard's archetypal command to postmodern intellectuals to 'wage a war on totality'" (10), to refuse a singular point of view. Andrews therefore denies to readers the central perspective associated with a traditional, unified narrative—one that promotes the speaking self above all else. As Andrews sees it, this is a privileging of the white male perspective and historically has served to erase expressions of race, gender, and class difference.
Perelman, Bob. "Building a More Powerful Vocabulary: Bruce Andrews and the World (Trade Center)." Arizona Quarterly: 50.4 (1994): 117-131.
Megan Swihart Jewell
IGNATOW, DAVID (1914-1997) David
Ignatow's poetry speaks for the common people. Walt Whitman was an especially strong influence on Igna-tow, although, to some extent, this influence is indirect, via the intermediate force of William Carlos Williams.
Ignatow knew and corresponded with many American poets, among them Williams, Charles reznikoff, Gregory corso, Charles olson, Allen GINSBERG, Louis zukofsky, Robert creeley, Denise levertov, and Harvey shapiro. Like Whitman and his many followers, Ignatow strove for simplicity and personal immediacy, usually assuming the pose of the common, unliterary observer. And, again like Whitman and Williams, he sought for his effects through a deceptive simplicity and surprising paradox. His numerous works, strongly autobiographical, deal with social as well as personal issues in quietly meditative free verse.
Ignatow was born in Brooklyn, New York, and spent practically all his life in the New York metropolitan area. Ignatow worked for a time as a journalist with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers' Project. His first collection of poetry (Poems) appeared in 1948. In a career that lasted more than 50 years, Igna-tow authored 17 books and served as editor for various literary journals. He taught in several institutions of higher learning in the united States (including the New School for Social Research, Southampton College,
Columbia University, and York College of the City University of New York). He received several honors during his career—two Guggenheim Fellowships (1965 and 1973), a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1964), and the Bollingen Prize (1977).
of particular interest in The Gentle Weight Lifter, Say Pardon (1961), and Figures of the Human (1964) is Ignatow's emphasis upon the poetic parable. Rescue the Dead, Ignatow's 1968 collection, revealed his interest in the serious themes of social reform, family relationships, and human kinship with nature. In Facing the Tree (1975), The Animal in the Bush (1977), and Tread the Dark (1978), he examines death and the art of poetry. Later collections include Whisper to the Earth (1981), Leaving the Door Open (1984), Shadowing the Ground (1991), and Against the Evidence: Selected Poems, 1934-1994 (1993). The Notebooks of David Igna-tow was published in 1973, and The One in the Many: A Poet's Memoirs in 1988.
Because Ignatow, like Whitman, lived most of his life in New York City, and because he was stamped indelibly as a New Yorker, he observed that in many of his poems the style of his writing demanded "receptivity to anger, sarcasm, satire, brutality, indifference and anguish, anguish with which all is presented." (Terris "Preface" ii). The posthumous volume At My Ease (1998) contains numerous poems that depict city life—weaving in and out of taxis, subways, and crowds, meditating on chance meetings, and observations of strangers' work—all reminiscent of Whitman's Leaves of Grass. In a 1956 poem, "For Walt Whitman," Ignatow coyly compares his own emotional and poetic life to that of his model, taunting Whitman for being someone who might not like, when riding on a subway train, to be "pushed out / by your camerados." Basically, as Ignatow confesses to Whitman, the younger poet feels that his life "betrays" the older poet. In another poem, "Walt Whitman in the Civil War Hospitals" (1990), Ignatow attempts to empathize with Whitman's sufferings as he transmutes the hospital experiences into meaningful poetry, accepting—with praise—the inevitability of death.
Ignatow deliberately strove to avoid a "literary" style. Shapiro, close friend and fellow New Yorker, says, "I remember his early manuscripts and can't recall ever seeing a poem that came out of someone else's book, that came out of literature" (28). His exaltation of the pedestrian and the ordinary are closely akin to what Whitman critics often call "the glory of the commonplace" (Aspiz 105).
Ignatow's son, David, was an institutionalized schizophrenic, which caused his father great anguish, as portrayed in "Sunday at the State Hospital" (1970). When visiting in the mental hospital, the son cannot manage to eat the food the father has brought for him. The poet's "past is sitting in front of" him, unable "to bring the present to its mouth." Another sort of anguish is displayed in "Play Again" (1970), a poem written in response to the report late in 1962 in the New York newspapers of a nine-year-old child being raped on a roof and hurled 20 stories to the ground. The poet's outrage is held in check through the use of fantasy, the desire that the child can once again play— not on a roof, but on a stairway: "When we played it was to love each other / in games." Here, as elsewhere in his poetry, the poet exposes a tenderness amid the brutalities of modern city life.
Aspiz, Harold. "The Body Politic in Democratic Vistas." In Walt Whitman: The Centennial Essays, edited by Ed Folsom. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994, pp. 105-119. Moran, Daniel Thomas. "With Ignatow at Whitman's Birthplace." Starting from Paumanok: Newsletter of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (spring 1998): 1. Shapiro, Harvey. "Tribute to David Ignatow." Poetry Society of
America Journal 58.1 (spring 1998): 28-29. Terris, Virginia R. Preface to At My Ease: David Ignatow's Uncollected Poems of the Fifties and Sixties, edited by Terris. Rochester, N.Y.: BOA Editions, 1998, p. ii.
-., ed. Meaningful Differences: The Poetry and Prose of
David Ignatow. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1994.
James T. F Tanner
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