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David Ignatow Papers
MSS 2  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Access

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: David Ignatow Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 2
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 47.6 Linear feet (93 archives boxes, 4 mapcase folders)
    Date (inclusive): 1929 - 1994
    Abstract: Papers of David Ignatow, distinguished American poet. In the 1950s and 1960s, Ignatow edited several important periodicals, among them The Beloit Poetry Journal (co-editor, 1950-1959), Nation (poetry editor, 1962-1963), Chelsea (consulting editor, 1969-1971), and the American Poetry Review (editor-at-large, 1972-1976). Ignatow taught at many colleges and universities including the New School for Social Research (1964-1965), Southampton College (1967-1968), and Columbia University (1969-1976). The accessions processed in 1987 include manuscripts and typescripts of poems dated from the 1930s to the 1970s, notebooks, and extensive correspondence. A substantial set of Ignatow's papers were processed in 1989. Almost half of these materials are general correspondence. Also included are fifteen of the poet's spiral-bound notebooks dated from 1978 to 1988; and typescripts and proof pages of three of Ignatow's more recent books, New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985, The One in the Many, and Whisper in the Dark. The accessions processed in 1993 contain a chronological collection of original manuscripts and typescripts of Ignatow's poems and prose from the early 1930s to the late 1980s, correspondence, several notebooks, a collection of essays and reviews of his work, and the writings of colleagues. The accessions processed in 1994 contain correspondence, annotated poetry drafts, short stories and articles, book production materials for Against the Evidence (1993) and Gleanings: The Uncollected Poems of the Fifties broadsides, drafts of opening remarks he gave at various ceremonies, drafts of statements he made, copies and video tapes of interviews, and some ephemera. The materials in the accession date from 1929 to 1994 with the bulk dating from the 1960s to 1980s.
    Creator: Ignatow, David, 1914-1997

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Accessions Processed in 1987
    The accessions processed in 1987 document the life and literary career of David Ignatow. Although there is material from the 1930s and 1940s, the bulk of papers date from the mid 1950s through 1971. The collection is arranged in four series, following the author's own arrangement: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) NOTEBOOKS, 3) PUBLISHED POETRY, and 4) MISCELLANEOUS: REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS AND EPHEMERA.
    The first series, CORRESPONDENCE, documents the literary community of the 1950s and 1960s and is divided into the following six subseries: A) General Correpondence, B) Wesleyan University, C) Beloit Poetry Journal Correspondence, D) Chelsea Correspondence, E) Nation Correspondence, F) The Newsletters Correspondence, and G) American Poetry Review Folio - Manuscript and Correspondence. This series does not include outgoing correspondence as a rule.
    The first subseries, General Correspondence, is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. A folder may contain letters from several correspondents, but each correspondent is identified in the finding list.
    The remaining subseries consist of correspondence relating to Ignatow's various editorships, and the separate subseries are arranged chronologically. Within each subseries, letters are arranged alphabetically, and each correspondent is assigned a separate folder.
    The NOTEBOOKS series is divided into the following three subseries: A) Spiral Notebooks, B) Typescripts of Notebook Pages, and C) Typescripts of Edited Pages.
    The first subseries, Spiral Notebooks, consists of fourteen spiral bound notebooks from which the binding has been removed and which the author has dated from 1965 to 1973. Seven of these notebooks have been restricted from use by the author's request.
    The second subseries consists of the author's typescripts of notebook pages dated 1934-1971, with photocopies of typescript pages. Alternate folders of typescripts and photocopies are arranged chronologically, as dated by the author.
    The third subseries consists of a typescript of the edited, published notebooks, with photocopies of the typescript in alternate folders. Though the series is dated from the 1930s to the 1970s, an important group of notebooks and corresponding typescripts, from the years 1935 to 1948, are missing having been destroyed by Ignatow's son.
    The third series, PUBLISHED POETRY AND MANUSCRIPTS, is divided into the following thirteen subseries: A) The Gentle Weight Lifter (1955), B) Say Pardon (1961), C) Figures of the Human (1964), D) Rescue the Dead (1968), E) Poems, 1934-1969 (1970), F) Selected Poems - Chosen and With Intro. by R. Bly (1975), G) Facing the Tree (1975), H) The Animal in the Bush (1977), I) Tread in the Dark (1978), J) Sunlight: A Sequence for My Daughter (1979), K) Whisper to the Earth (1981), L) Leaving the Door Open (1984), and M) Miscellaneous Published Poetry.
    Each subseries is devoted to a single, published book, and the subseries are arranged chronologically by publication date. Within each subseries, papers are arranged alphabetically by poem title; each title is given its own folder. These subseries consist of manuscripts and typescripts of individual poems, and notebook leaves removed from notebooks by the author, on which original versions of the folder poem are displayed. A number of notebook pages have not been identified, though the author had placed them in envelopes and assigned them to published books; these unidentified mss. are found in separate folders which follow the mss. folders of identified poems in the appropriate subseries. The folders in subseries E, Poems, 1934-1969, list page references to the published text, since the subseries text, Poems, 1934-1969, is much longer than the others; such references are not made in the other subseries. In the folders of this series, leaves are arranged in order of revision from first to finished copies. For the same reason, galleys follow the manuscript folders. The various stages of composition are gathered together to help identify the composition process.
    The fourth series is divided into the following four subseries: A) Interviews - Open Between Us, B) Reviews, C) Miscellaneous and Ephemera, and D) Serials. The materials in this series consist of a selection of serials in which Ignatow's work appears and various reviews, interviews, introductions and essays, and lastly, ephemera. (The actual serials have been separated from the collection and added to the ANP serial collection. Patrons wanting to see these magazines need to request them by individual title.)
    Accessions Processed in 1989
    The accessions processed in 1989 principally cover the years 1979 through 1988, although there are some materials relating to business matters that are dated earlier. The additions are arranged in seven series: 5) CORRESPONDENCE, 6) NOTEBOOKS, 7) PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED POETRY, 8) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 9) REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS, MISCELLANEOUS AND EPHEMERA, 10) FINANCIAL RECORDS, 11) AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS and 12) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    The CORRESPONDENCE is divided into the following three subseries: A) Lists of Correspondents, B) General Correspondence, and C) Publications Correspondence. This material reveals how deeply Ignatow - as poet, critic, and devotee - was involved in the literary community during the 1980's.
    The first subseries, Lists of Correspondence, includes lists (compiled and written by Ignatow himself) of correspondence, reviews, and other papers collected by the poet and his wife from 1934-78.
    The second subseries is entitled General Correspondence. While there are a few copies of Ignatow's own letters attached to some of the correspondence of others, the bulk of the general correspondence subseries consists of letters written to the poet. Letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent, with each correspondent (providing that he or she has written more than three letters) receiving his or her own folder. Within each folder, letters are arranged chronologically. Major correspondents include Ai, Robert Bly, Siv Cedering, Michael Heller, Milton Hindus, Stanley Kunitz, Ralph Mills, Jr., Roy Harvey Pearce, and Leif Sjoberg. Included is a considerable amount of correspondence from the Poetry Society of America. Ignatow was an active member of the Society throughout the 1980s, and served as its president in 1981. Also extensive is correspondence with Atlantic Monthly Press, which published Ignatow's books Facing the Tree, Tread the Dark, and Whisper to the Earth; and correspondence with the law firm of Wildman, Harrold, Allen and Dixon, which represented Ignatow in a suit against Swallow Press over the failure of payment of royalty rights for The Notebooks of David Ignatow.
    The third subseries, Publications Correspondence, was originally formed in the collection processed in 1986 and was intended for correspondence relating to Ignatow's various editorships. Although Ignatow did not serve as editor of any of these periodicals in the 1980s, this subseries has been maintained in the additions. It includes correspondence from four of the presses/periodicals where he once served as editor.
    The NOTEBOOKS series includes fifteen spiral-bound notebooks which the author dated from 1978-1988. They include drafts of poetry and prose writings, personal reflections, and strategies and ideas for teaching composition. Ignatow did not date individual entries in these books.
    The seventh series, PUBLISHED AND UNPUBLISHED POETRY, is divided into the follwing ten subseries: A) Facing the Tree (1975), B) Figures of the Human (1964), C) Leaving the Door Open (1984), D) New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985 (1986), E) The One in the Many (1988), F) Poems, 1934-1969 (1970), G) Rescue the Dead (1968), H) Tread the Dark (1978), I) Whisper to the Earth (1981), J) Miscellaneous Poetry. (All, with the exception of Miscellaneous Poetry, are devoted to single, published books, arranged alphabetically by book title.)
    The majority of this material deals with Ignatow's three latest publications, Whisper to the Earth (1981), New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985 (1986), and The One in the Many (1988). Included are manuscripts, typescripts, page proofs and galleys with annotations. In general, the materials under each title are arranged in the approximate order of composition, from earliest drafts to finished copies.
    Using Ignatow's own organization, the subseries New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985 was separated into further divisions -- each constituting one of the book's chapters. Each chapter contains selected works from one of his books.
    The final subseries, Miscellaneous Poetry, includes typescripts, manuscripts and photocopies of poems (with revisions and annotations) written between 1934 and 1989. Although Ignatow did not arrange these items in any recognizable order, they have been ordered chronologically by decade and divided into the categories "titled" and "untitled." Within each folder, poems are arranged alphabetically by title or by first line.
    The eighth series, WRITINGS OF OTHERS, is devoted to Ignatow's personal collection of some of his friends' and colleagues' work. A typescript draft and final copy of a 1983 dissertation, The Poetry of David Ignatow, 1934-1979, by Joseph Lipari constitutes the major part of this series. The draft is not annotated by either Ignatow or Lipari, and it has been divided into folders by chapters. Other entries include works by Johannes Edfelt, Michael Schell, and Roberta Smith.
    The ninth series, REVIEWS, INTERVIEWS, MISCELLANEOUS AND EPHEMERA is arranged in the following four subseries: A) Interviews, B) Reviews of Ignatow's Books, C) Reviews of Other's Writings, and D) Miscellaneous and Ephemera. This series features a transcript and draft of an interview with Ignatow by Joseph Lipari. Also included is a collection of reviews of nine of Ignatow's books and a group of reviews written by Ignatow himself. Reviews for a given book are placed chronologically in a folder, and folders are arranged by book title. In the final subseries, Miscellaneous and Ephemera, are the poet's personal collection of announcements of his readings and lectures (arranged chronologically) and biographical articles (also ordered chronologically).
    FINANCIAL RECORDS is divided into the following two subseries: A) Enterprise Bookbinding Company, Inc. and B) Personal Records. This series includes papers dealing with the Enterprise Bookbinding Company, a business run by Ignatow and his father from 1948 to 1962. Also included are personal financial records, and Ignatow's commission statements from 1964-65 when he was a salesperson for the Reem Paper Corporation. Ignatow's medical records listed in this series are restricted.
    The eleventh series, AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, is divided into three subseries: A) Cassette Recordings of Readings/Lectures by Ignatow, B) Recordings of Music Based on Ignatow's Poetry, C) Video Cassette Recordings. This series is devoted to Ignatow's collection of cassette and video recordings, including four recordings of the poet's own readings and lectures, recordings of musical compositions based on Ignatow's poetry, and a single videotape of the poet reading in 1986.
    This series contains fragile materials that have been pulled from the collection. Note that each of these pages has been photocopied, stamped with "Copied from Original in this Collection," and refoldered at the appropriate location within the collection.
    Accessions Processed in 1993
    The accessions processed in 1993 contain a chronological collection of original typed manuscripts of Ignatow's poems and prose from the early 1930's to the late 1980's; recent correspondence; several recent notebooks; a collection of essays and reviews about his work; and the writings of colleagues. The materials are arranged in eight series: 13) CORRESPONDENCE, 14) WRITINGS, 15) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 16) WRITINGS OF OTHERS, 17) ARTICLES ABOUT IGNATOW, 18) REVIEWS OF IGNATOW'S BOOKS, 19) INTERVIEWS, and 20) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
    Included in the CORRESPONDENCE series are letters (1989-1992) from journal publishers and colleagues. Among the correspondents are Mary Crow, Milton Hindus, Jerome Mazzaro, and Gary Pacernick. The materials are arranged alphabetically by author and then chronologically within the folder. Correspondents with less than three items are located in miscellaneous files by first letter of the last name.
    The fourteenth series, WRITINGS, is arranged in two subseries: A) Poetry and Prose and B) Notebooks. The first subseries comprises a collection of original typed manuscripts organized chronologically by Ignatow. The materials often show extensive editing and revision. In addition, there are production materials from several publications - Despite the Plainness of the Day; The One in the Many: A Poet's Memoirs; and Shadowing the Ground. Ignatow's holograph notebooks contain draft poems and prose.
    Among the MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS is a copy of Ignatow's resignation from the American Poetry Review.
    The WRITINGS OF OTHERS series contains manuscript material sent to Ignatow by colleagues. The materials are arranged alphabetically by author.
    In the ARTICLES ABOUT IGNATOW series are located papers and articles about Ignatow's work and career.
    The REVIEWS OF IGNATOW'S BOOKS contains collections of reviews that are maintained in the order in which they were received.
    The INTERVIEWS series includes a 1992 interview with Ignatow by Leslie Kelen.
    This series contains fragile materials that have been pulled from the collection. Note that each of these pages has been photocopied, stamped with "Copied from Original in this Collection," and refoldered at the appropriate location within the collection.
    Accessions Processed in 1994
    The accessions processed in 1994 include correspondence, typescripts, annotated poem drafts, book production materials, audio and video cassettes, and ephemera. The papers are dated 1929-1994, with the bulk of the material dating in the 1970s and 1980s. The additions occupy 5.4 linear feet and are arranged in the following six series: 21) CORRESPONDENCE, 22) WRITINGS, 23) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 24) MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, 25) RESTRICTED MATERIALS, AND 26) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
    The series, CORRESPONDENCE, contains letters from friends and colleagues. Some prominent names in this series include George Wallace, Harvey Shapiro, Norbert Krapf, and Bill Clinton (who sent a Christmas card to Ignatow). The vast majority of this correspondence is from 1993, though there are a few items from 1987 and 1992. This series is arranged alphabetically by the author's last name or by name of organization.
    The twenty-second series, WRITINGS, makes up the bulk of the 1994 accession and has been arranged in the following seven subseries: A) Annotated Poem Drafts, B) Short Stories and Articles, C) Book Production Materials, D) Broadsides, E) Opening Remarks, F) Statements, and G) Miscellaneous Photocopies.
    The first subseries is Annotated Poetry Drafts. This large subseries contains mostly typescripts of previously published poems that Ignatow has revised. In some instances the original typescript accompanies the revised typescript. Also included are typescripts of new poems Ignatow wrote in recent years and, in a few instances, unrevised original typescripts. The material in this subseries dates from 1934-1993, with the bulk falling within the 1980s. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by poem title or by first line.
    The second subseries, Short Stories and Articles, contains a small selection of short articles written by Ignatow on a variety of subjects. Included are diary-style writings such as "Memoirs, 1981", "1983", "1984" and "1985"; introductions and forewords written for several books of poetry; some short stories such as "An Imaginary Dialogue" and a few articles including "On the Language Poets" and "My Life with Whitman." These materials, largely undated, are arranged alphabetically by title.
    The third subseries, Book Production Materials, includes materials related to the production of Against the Evidence, a collected work of Ignatow's poems published in 1993. Included is correspondence with colleagues and the editors at New England Press, lists of endorsement magazines, revised acknowledgments, galley proofs, page proofs, and paste ups. Also included in this series is a computer print-out of Gleanings: The Uncollected Poems of the Fifties. This is a book by Ignatow apparently published for the first time by Grist on Line a poetry magazine and publisher on the Internet. These materials are arranged first by title of the book, and then alphabetically by subject.
    The fourth subseries, Broadsides, has been separated from the collection, catalogued and placed in UCSD's Archive for New Poetry.
    The fifth subseries, Opening Remarks, contains typescripts of several introductory speeches Ignatow was asked to give at poetry readings and awards ceremonies. In these remarks, he discusses the particular merits and achievements of the poets he was asked to introduce. Events include the awards ceremony given by the Poetry Society of America and the Academy of American Poets. Some of the poets introduced are Adrienne Rich, Stanley Kunitz, Harvey Shapiro and Ted Weiss. This material, largely undated, is arranged alphabetically by the name of the event.
    The sixth subseries, Statements, contains what appears to be several short press statements or comments to be quoted in reviews or introductions for books. The topics of these statements include Harvey Shapiro, De Palchi, the book The Cave Dwellers, and form in American poetry. Mostly undated, this small subseries is arranged alphabetically by either title or subject.
    The seventh subseries, Miscellaneous Photocopies, contains about 200 photocopies of published poems by Ignatow. These are the photocopies of poems Ignatow used for the annotated poem drafts in the first subseries. Because of the large quantity and awkwardness of these materials, they were kept in the order in which they were received.
    The twenty-third series, BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS & EPHEMERA, contains several transcripts and two video tapes of interviews given by Ignatow, an old autograph book dated 1929-1930 filled with signatures of Ignatow's classmates, a button which reads "How do you say Ignatow?" and some autobiographical texts written by Ignatow at unknown dates. These materials are arranged alphabetically by subject.
    The twenty-fourth series, MISCELLANEOUS MATERIALS, contains materials that do not relate to the other series in this collection. Included are two portraits of Ignatow done by Amy Sillman in 1990, a syllabus for a poetry writing workshop, and a typescript of two poems written by David Ignatow Jr. at the age of five. These materials are arranged alphabetically by type of material or by subject.
    The twenty-fifth series, RESTRICTED MATERIALS, contains recommendations written by Ignatow for students and colleagues. This material has been arranged alphabetically according to the name on the letter head Ignatow used to compose the recommendation. For information on these materials, see the note "Restrictions" at the beginning of this document.
    This series contains fragile materials that have been pulled from the collection. Note that each of these pages has been photocopied, stamped with "Copied from Original in this Collection," and refoldered at the appropriate location within the collection.


    David Ignatow, distinguished American poet and man of letters, was born in Brooklyn, New York, 7 February 1914, and has spent most of his life in New York City. Ignatow's parents were immigrants. His mother, Yetta Reinbach, from Austria-Hungary, was the illiterate daughter of a forest warden and his father was born a Jew in the Czarist Ukraine. After graduating from high school in 1932, Ignatow was employed as a writer in research by the Federal Government. In 1937, Ignatow married the artist Rose Graubart; their son David was born that year. From 1948 to 1960, Ignatow was office manager at his father's bookbindery, and from 1963 to 1964, before establishing his literary career, he accepted various employment as a Western Union auto messenger, a hospital admitting clerk, and a paper salesman to publishers. While so employed, Ignatow published a first book of poetry, Poems (1948), and later, The Gentle Weight Lifter (1955) and Say Pardon (1961). During the 1950s and early 1960s, Ignatow began to establish his literary career in a series of editorships, the first at the fledgling Beloit Poetry Journal, which Ignatow led from midwestern obscurity to national prominence. He was associated with BPJ from 1949 to 1958, and returned to edit the William Carlos Williams memorial chapbook in 1963. His successful political poetry issue at Chelsea led to an editorship at Nation, held from 1962 to 1963. In 1955, Ignatow's son developed serious mental illness, from which he did not recover. After 1955, Ignatow describes his writing as the record of his son's illness, and of his own recovery, years later, of faith. In 1956, a daughter, Yaedi, was born to Rose and David Ignatow.
    In his academic and literary career, Ignatow was Instructor at the New School for Social Research, New York (1964-1965); Visiting Lecturer, University of Kansas, Lawrence (1966-1967); and at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York (1967-1969). He was Poet in residence at York College of the City University of New York (1969), and from 1969, on faculty at Columbia University's School of the Arts. In the 1960s, Ignatow was active in opposition to the war in Vietnam. He participated in mass demonstrations and read at political poetry readings. He also supported the Berkeley free speech movement and the Afro-American struggle for equality. Among honors bestowed on Ignatow have been two Guggenheim Fellowships, an Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1964), the Poetry Society's Shelley Memorial Award (1966), and, in 1977, the Bollingen Prize.
    For further reference, see Joseph Lipari's complete bibliography, The Poetry of David Ignatow: An Introduction and Bibliography of Primary Sources, 1931-1978 (University of Washington, 1983).



    Preferred Citation

    David Ignatow Papers, MSS 2. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available


    The recommendations Ignatow wrote for colleagues and students listed in box 93, folders 47-52, are restricted for 75 years after their receipt, i.e., until 2069. Also, the recordings in the collection are restricted. Researchers must request user copies be produced

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Antin, David
    Berg, Stephen
    Berry, Wendell, 1934-
    Bly, Robert
    Creeley, Robert, 1926-2005
    Dahlberg, Edward, 1900-1977
    Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997
    Hall, Donald, 1928-
    Hindus, Milton
    Honig, Edwin
    Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997
    Lowenfels, Walter, 1897-1976
    Mills, Ralph J.
    Olson, Charles, 1910-1970
    Oppen, George
    Pearce, Roy Harvey
    Reznikoff, Charles, 1894-1976
    Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931-
    Wakoski, Diane
    Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963
    Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978
    American poetry--20th century