Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

David Ignatow has been called the “most autobiographical of writers” by the Dictionary of American Biography. “Against the Evidence” bears this out, as do many of his other poems. Rather than create a persona as narrator, Ignatow himself is obviously the speaker, confronting life and the human condition. In another poem, “Communion,” he sees little in human experience to inspire communion.

Then let us be friends, said Walt, and the graveswere opened and coffins laid on topof one another for lack of spaceIt was then the gravediggers slittheir throats being alone in the worldNot a friend to bury.

In “Communion” he creates an ironic contrast between himself and nineteenth century American poet Walt Whitman, who greatly influenced him. However, Ignatow considers Whitman optimistic and his own view of life realistic. Although he regards language as paramount in his writing, he also regards his work as a vehicle for moral leadership in that it points out—in his own words—“the terrible deficiencies in man. Whitman spent his life boosting the good side. My life will be spent pointing out the bad.” “Against the Evidence” reflects on the harsh realities of life, yet it reiterates the poet’s choice of life...

(The entire section is 597 words.)