David Ignatow was born in Brooklyn, and was largely self-educated. For years he worked odd jobs—at his father's bindery and elsewhere—to support himself while he wrote poetry. His work eventually was published and he was offered teaching positions that allowed him to pursue poetry more actively. He also served as the editor of many magazines including American Poetry Review and as the poetry editor of The Nation. He was the recipient of numerous honors including the Bollingen Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and many others.