Saturday, September 26, 2009

Larry Eigner

Ron Silliman, perspicacious linkmeister, supplied access to Robert Grenier’s preface to the Collected Poems of Larry Eigner ici. It does not look as if this child will be buying that soon, mucho dinero, but it is a true publishing (poetry world division) event.

Grenier managed to get Eigner up to Franconia College sometime during my 2nd year at the school. I say managed because Franconia was a nationally recognized poverty zone at the time, and the 4 or 5 hour drive from Boston seemed to distance the school from most known aspects of civilization. Ashbery came the same year, by bus, and I got the impression that it was akin to a lunar landing.

This reading was about a year after Grenier had first gone to Swampscott to meet Larry. A handful of us, the poets of Franconia, sat round a table in the cafeteria and listened to Eigner. This visit, Grenier made clear to us, was a big deal for Larry. Larry’s father brought him up then discreetly slipped away, so that Larry could be the visiting poet. Larry was in his mid 40s at the time.

Calibrating one’s ear to how Larry spoke took a few moments, then it was the most intimate of poetry readings. Even then, there was a clear sensitivity on Grenier’s part to Eigner’s situation. I do not want to romanticize, but it seems like Grenier’s guardianship of Eigner was of a wonderful generosity. Friends’ of my parents adopted an infant who, it proved, had muscular dystrophy. He lived with the constant fear that he would outlive his parents. I do not know the nature of Grenier’s relationship with Eigner, but it sure seems that Grenier performed an act of generosity and compassion. I am glad that Larry Eigner is honoured with what I hope and believe is a wonderful presentation of Larry’s remarkable work.

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