First Coffin Poem

Ignatow, David

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jul-11-1994


The poet expresses his love for his own coffin. In fact, he is already in the coffin. He urges the reader to see his coffin as a bench for his friends to sit on, or as a coffee table. Though it would be “so much simpler, less gruesome / to use an actual coffee table . . . or a real bench,” that would show us to be rigid: “We must make one thing / do for another.” He urges the reader to use his “pine box,” to take it home, to make it a “conversation piece.”


Ignatow seems to be saying that we must encounter our own deaths (“I am in a coffin”) and the deaths of our loved ones as part of everyday experience. This suggests the existentialist or religious perspective that one can only experience life in its fullest, and become an authentic person, by encountering death.

Primary Source

Poems 1934-1969


Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Middletown, Conn.