Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Bit More Eigner

I was astounded to see that the collected poems of Larry Eigner, edited by Robert Grenier, counts out at more than 1800 pages. Zounds! I had no idea there was that much material.

It pleases me that such an attempt at completion has been offered to Eigner. The publication of these 4 volumes is an event to match, say, the collected Berrigan, long awaited.

I have credited Robert Creeley with helping me to understand the poetic line. I do not withdraw that credit, but realize that I owe credit to Larry Eigner, as well. To be thorough, I can add WCW, and Emily Dickinson's canny, puzzling shortchanging of metre. But back to Eigner.

Eigner practiced an intense capture of the word. I remember Grenier speaking of Eigner set up at a window, I think the living room window, at the Swampscott home, with that view to work from/with/to. The composition of his life, his life bounded, so to speak, by a wheelchair, made each word that he located prima facie. That is not to limit him to his condition, I think this exercise of verbal precision (honour of each word) is the genius that Eigner gives us.

After Eigner visited Franconia, I wrote something to or for him. The usual youthful dedication, I imagine. Grenier suggested that I send it to Eigner, that Eigner would be tickled to see a response. Shyness and maybe a sense that what I wrote was not worthy, prevented me from doing that. It occurs to me just now that I might have sent a missive to Eigner via whatever publisher, but I do not know when that might have been, but if I did this, I got no response.

Every writer writes from 'a condition'. That condition informs the writer, but less so us, the readers. Eigner's cerebral palsy, Keats' tuberculosis, wehatev. These conditions are just specific roods of occupied earth. One witnesses Eigner's condition in his writing, but his writing is not his condition.

Eigner pushed his words across the page, unloosening the left margin. I know that my writing started doing likewise at that time. My line...

Almost from the beginning, I wrote on keyboard (typewriter in the olden days). I used to write furiously fast. I would hit the return bar whenever I thought of it. The deal was, if I wasn't paying attention to the return bar, or the bell at the end of the line, I would inter bunches of letters at the last point there on the typewriter roll (I have lost almost all of the vocabulary of the typewriter), when the typewriter would adevance no further. In rewrite, I would lineage the mass of words that I had written. Ben Jonson, you may know, wrote his poems first in prose, then translated them to metre and rhjyme.

Well, I suppose it worked okay for Jonson, but I had to develop a metronom, to work with. Creeley, Eigner, and others, helped form my sense of the words in conjunction, with tensile strength. Eigner was a great writer, and I think the 1800 pages will show just how importasnt Eigner was, and continues to be.
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