Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview
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David Ignatow, 1978


Answering the Dark

POETRY MISCELLANY: In your Notebooks you talk about "seeing everything as a flat surface," referring both to a style and a perceptual mode. You say, "I look back on my style of work and realize that there is only brightness and a certain hardness that comes from light shining on a thing constantly from all sides." Over the years, the notion of darkness has entered your poems more frequently, and you still retain much of the flat style, what Barthes calls "neutral writing," so that the darkness, too, seems to be a surface. The title of your last book, Tread the Dark, suggests this. But sometimes, as in the poem "For Stephen Mooney," the darkness seems more murky, less substantial, less a surface thing.

DAVID IGNATOW: In one way, of course, the darkness is a surface. I also think of it as a hard object which you have to go through--it's penetrable. It is the environment that surrounds you, and you are in its depths. So you are right in seeing the duality. Sometimes the dark is set off against light, suggesting something like, say, the physical as opposed to the nonphysical. Now, in the poem you refer to, the physical presence of the man in the universe is a light since he is a conscious being, but he could also be the dark generating itself as a conscious object. In a sense, we are an emergent factor from the dark; and what is beyond our consciousness is the unknown, the dark. That doesn't mean the dark is something fearful; it can be something very exciting, the sense of the unexpected. It is our existence; we are per

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