David Ignatow: On "Testimony"

He had sent me the first volume of Testimony, and I was knocked over by it; by its calm account of cases of murder, lust, perversion, theft and betrayals throughout the early years of this great republic, each case told with such economy of language, simplicity and directness as to leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he or she was reading an actual case drawn from legal history, but, and this was the big but, written from the viewpoint of an observer who could have been there and who knew who was at fault from first hand observation, yet was not about to point it out to anyone with so many words of direct accusation. The reader was left to draw his or her own conclusions, and yet fault was not the issue in all of these poems. It was more than that, it was the deepest sorrow and commiseration with pain, suffering, human frailty, with human limitation to self understanding, self discipline and human lack of soul, if one can define spirit of commonality in those terms. He was revealing the grating isolation in which each of the victims and their aggressors were living in a country dedicated to unity within diversity. There was plenty of diversity but little or no unity and the book was an overwhelming indictment of the case.

[. . . .]

Could a man do less that to write of his grief at the loss of opportunity this country had once to raise itself to the heights dreamed of by its founders? Charles was not about to shirk that duty to the truth, which in his sardonic way he could only hope that someday would act as a therapeutic with which to cleanse this country of its shame. And so I was to find him on every page of Testimony speaking to me as he had not been able to in private on those occasions when we had met, for one, that walk on Fifth Avenue with hints of his project barely made. After the first volume of Testimony I felt closer to him than ever before.


Title David Ignatow: On "Testimony" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Milton Hindus Criticism Target Charles Reznikoff
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 24 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Charles Reznikoff: A Memoir"
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