2010 National Book Award Finalist,

Monica Youn


Four Way Books


Ignatz takes the form of a cycle of love poems—in radical variations—based on Ignatz Mouse, the rodent anti-hero and love-object of George Herriman's classic comic strip Krazy Kat. For decades, Krazy Kat rang the changes on a quirky theme of unrequited love: cat loves mouse; mouse hates cat; mouse hits cat with brick; cat mistakes brick for love; and so on, day after day. The backgrounds of the strip were in constant inexplicable flux: a desiccated specimen of Arizona flora morphs in the next panel into a crescent moon, then into a snowcapped butte, while the characters chatted obliviously on, caught up in their own obsessive round.

Moving through pacy, overflowing sentences, enigmatic aphoristic observations, and pointed imagistic vignettes, Youn’s second collection vividly captures the way the world reorients around an object of desire: the certainty that your lover “will appear in the west, backlit by orange isinglass,” the ability to intuit a lover’s presence from the way “unseen flutes / keep whistling the curving phrases of your body.” Youn skillfully draws on the repeating narrative motifs and haunting landscapes of Krazy Kat as she tests and surpasses the limits of lyric to explore the cyclical elements of romanticized love, where one hides “in the coolness I had stolen // from the brass rods of your bed.” Ignatz speaks to and with her poetic forbears, whether St. John Perse, whose phrase “robed in the loveliest robe of the year” (T.S. Eliot’s translation) recurs in several love songs to Ignatz, or Geoffrey Hill, whose Mercian Hymns these poems recall in their serial structure and their commingling of the contemporary and classical.

A poignant foray into the inventive possibilities of obsession and passion, Ignatz offers precisely-observed snapshots—or, rather, comic-strip panels—which speak volumes about poetry, love, lyric—and, of course, poor old Krazy Kat.


Monica Youn is an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, where she is the Director of the Money in Politics project. She has been awarded poetry fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Stanford University, and has taught creative writing at Pratt Institute and Columbia University. Her first collection, Barter, was published by Graywolf Press in 2003.


Monica Youn's Wikipedia entry

Monica Youn's webpage at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law


“Ignatz Invoked” from IGNATZ by Monica Youn © 2010. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.


A gauze bandage wraps the land
and is unwound, stained orange with sulfates.

A series of slaps molds a mountain,
a fear uncoils itself, testing its long

cool limbs. A passing cloud
seizes up like a carburetor

and falls to earth, lies broken-
backed and lidless in the scree.

Acetylene torches now snug
in their holsters, shop-vacs

trundled back behind the dawn.
A mist becomes a murmur, becomes

a moan rising from dust-
choked fissures in the rock O pity us

Ignatz O come to us by moonlight
O arch your speckled body over the earth.