Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Larry Eigner: One of a Series


File:London2007brighton img 5631.jpg

The tray his best friend started him wriggling
all of a sudden; at which reclused he read;
after ten years; down went his head
further in a clinch. Shoulder or fingers
fixed in an act forever very nagging
unless he could forget a certain way
what he was up to and how useless it was
in a certain sense remember and be mad

himselfhimself, his limbs and his mind
and so much sooner his tract, but he couldn't help that:
often as not he must live excitedly
and what happened to others would finally happen to him
-- which self was wild now? A waste . Well, he
laid it aside and held the book in his lap.

File:Brighton Pier.jpg

One of a Series: Larry Eigner, 1951 (from Collected Poems, 2010)

Brighton: photo by Gürkan Sengün, 2007
Brighton West Pier: photo by Barbara Mürdtler, 1995


J said...

Interesting collocation of images, of reflections, but ....I find the Eigner school mostly a development of the eecummings/beat/confessional school, which is to say, essentially narcissistic, more about the poet's uh issues, or neurosis, than "reality", political, historical, scientific or otherwise.

Compare to like Jeffers--who rarely just waxes personally, or introspectively --he's looking at the world, at nature, at events (wars, economics, etc...), with a sort of cold sober gaze. I find it a bit dull,really, but RJ's work was quite different than the later bohemians. The modernists themselves may have been guilty in some regard of bringing back the subjective, the personal, the narcissistic...probably a response to realist writing, to journalism, to Marx & co as well.

TC said...


As to "schools", Larry Eigner was home-schooled. He lived in a wheelchair.

You've said Pound was narcissistic. Pound and Larry.

Jeffers wasn't narcissistic, you say, but he was dull.

Poor poets, poor poetry.

J said...

Yes, the n-word (narcissism)--sort of occupational danger of Poesy biz, at least the beat-boho school.
Sry for reiterating it--shan't do again, prlly.

I'm just calling it as I sees it--modern poetry, at least most 20th century sort, just doesn' Like Wallace Stevens...a dead swan....same for beatskis, mostly

The section from the Prelude does fly, or at least lifts off occasionally (not to say the quaint passages of Herrick, et al)

Jeffers too paints a few nice scenes (as does Pound, of course, but then he's got all that Kultural..and political baggage [as my my torn and frayed copy of Literary Essays indicates]...EP seems like a wannabe-economist, most of the time..or was it priest)...

TC said...


As someone who prides himself on his ability to recognize writing that is about real things -- war, pain, serious business -- I find it curious you haven't been able to comprehend that the Eigner poem is about pain, and about fashioning a way of living in a very difficult real-life state. It is serious business he is writing about here. (He had cerebral palsy.)

J said...


I shan't bring up the Monty Python skit I had in mind---or like the cripple in a wheelchair on Nob hill bit.


I will re-read, sir. But you would probably agree the mere fact of victimhood (or crippled-ness) doesn't make it sublime, does it...

Anonymous said...

As i come late to Eigner, I cannot help but note that, for me, it doesn't get more "real" than this from him:

September 21 65 # e b ’

flock of birds
a moment
of one tree reached

apples fall to the ground

As for Pound's "kulture" biz, i'd say the economic cost/benefit analysis of his baggage is pretty beat...and Just sayin, J.

J said...

Ah not sure of that, Anny. Pound's at his best when chanting con USURA against the greedheads of the world, when he sticks Winnie Churchill, "Rosefield," and zionist bankers--and torys of all types-- in the Malebolge. The engaged writer outranks the...mere aesthete, IMHO

(It's the decorative/imagistic stuff IM not sure on...but poet Im not).


Nice to see this here -- what a book! (books!). . . .

TC said...


I wasn't evoking victimhood. Human courage is what it is. Maybe my being moved by this poem has something to do with the fact that I knew the person who was the poet, and thus had some sense of the life-complications.


Thanks for that Eigner moment-capture, the poet at his best.


Yes, though the handling of it/them -- the book(s)-- made me feel a bit like Larry with his tray vs. lap issues. The sheer poundage I mean. (Maybe I need some spinach?)



Very good, very good, made me laugh out loud just now. . . . So why not open a can (spinach) or better yet get some over at (where?) Whole Foods?

TC said...


Whole Foods, great, but alas too far for mere pedestrians us. As it happens, though, A. did hike to Monterey Market yesterday, and came home with... yes, spinach. And ate it all up.

I am reduced to admiring her dazzling musculature.

(Along, of course, with yours!)

. said...

Tom, thanks for the generous sharing of these 'others' words - an introduction to some, a wonderful reminder of many.

TC said...

Thank you, Leigh, it's good to think some sense or use may be made of this attempt to go back to poetry with fresh eyes (well, perhaps more blurry than fresh, but there it is) and "re-vision" that of it which seems to stay alive... nay perhaps, to come back round as more living than ever...

TC said...

By the by, something that's flitted in an out of that sievelike trap, the ancient mind, several times in the latter stages of this thread -- on the nutritional, er, "issue" -- re. the relative virtues of spinach vs. hamburgers -- could it be it's open to co(s)mic interpretation?

Jennifer Bartlett said...


What in Eigner could you point to that is remotely confessional?

Tom, Eigner didn't 'live in a wheelchair' he used a wheelchair to 'get around.' He probably also used chairs, couches, toilets, and beds.

Also, he wasn't homeschooled entirely. He went to school at a 'school for the handicapped.' I don't know when he started, but finished at 8th grade. Then, if I remember what Grenier said! Eigner did correspondance school through some partial college. He also was involved in Herbrew school somehow.
Thank you for this beautiful piece!

TC said...

Thanks Jennifer,

You're right, of course, Larry's "home-schooling" was supplemented by correspondence courses. My point in bringing up home-schooling was simply to suggest the patent absurdity in the phrase "the Eigner school".

I understand also that Larry was not always in his wheelchair, thank gods.

When I "knew" him only by mail -- in the 1960s, when I was in England and publishing his poems in The Paris Review -- my sense of his living circumstances there with his family in Massachusetts came of course entirely from my imagination.

When I knew him in person later on, in visits to the McGee Street household where he was in residence with Bob, he was customarily moving about the house in his wheelchair. "Getting around" as you say.

"The confessional" was raised by J, not by me. I have no idea what he was talking about.

This early poem, however, if certainly in no sense "confessional", is certainly about something quite intelligible, that is, Larry's approach to being Larry.

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Thank you so much! And again thank you for posting this. I was only being a stickler for disability because, as you can see, people still get stupid ideas - like someone here makes jokes about cripples! My exactness on Eigner's biography is also because Grenier taught me so many things I didn't know about Eigner!

By the way, remember Lee Bartlett? I'm little Jennifer, his daughter. I'm also a poet (my second book is forthcoming from Chax). I also have cerebral palsy!!!


TC said...


"someone here makes jokes about cripples!"

I don't blame you for being offended. I too found the comment offensive. The internet is a kind of stone, out from under which crawl many alien life forms. In any case, that commenter is now non grata here.

Yes, I wrote publicity for some of your father's publications with Black Sparrow.

I have been reading your blog and your poems, lovely. Good luck with that new book.

Curtis Faville said...

I'm slightly confused. Did someone think you were quoting a Larry poem?-- I assumed you were writing a poem ABOUT Larry...?


Tom, will you be reviewing the Collected Eigner?

With your unique perspective, I for one would welcome your reactions and judgment.

TC said...

Hello Curtis,

You know, I have heard and read so very much opinion, and so much judgment, and so much reaction, that it seemed any more of same might well be redundant, or even worse, at this point.

I thought perhaps in this overly opinionated yet curiously uninstanced environment, it might do well to hear the poet's own voice here, speaking for himself, as do, for example, William Blake, Tom Raworth, Edward Dorn, Edward Lear, Thomas Campion, Thomas Hardy, Robert Herrick, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Creeley, James Schuyler, Hart Crane, Robinson Jeffers, Charlotte Mew, Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith, William Wordsworth, and oh, you could look it up.

Poets whose work I admire. And whose work I attempt to frame to advantage. And design visually in a way perhaps not to be afforded elsewhere.

(Ekphrasis is a recognized form of criticism, by the way.)

I have been an editor for much of my life, at various times and places, in various venues.

I was, for example, for some time the poetry editor of The Paris Review, and in that capacity I did, as I am doing here, represent Larry's work as best I was able, to such audience as I could make available.

Back then, of course, he was getting none of the attention he is getting now.

As I'm sure you know.

(And for anyone who may be a bit puzzled by this conversation, it should be pointed out that Curtis Faville, along with Robert Grenier, is a co-editor of the Eigner Collected; and that yes, this present poem was... written... by... Larry ... Eigner.)

TC said...

Curtis, now that I understand that you were actually unaware that the poem by Larry which I have posted here is actually written by Larry (!!), perhaps we should help any other innocent souls who may be dwelling in doubt to find their way to it.

It is to be found in Volume One, page 54 of the Collected Poems of Larry Eigner. Highly recommended, & c.

Curtis Faville said...

Not "unaware," Tom, I just had trouble locating it in the cabinet of memory.

I probably typed it about two years ago, and given that Larry's output numbered over 3000, it's not surprising.

One of the great pleasures, in fact, of editing a work like this, is the joy of perceiving, experiencing the poems "as if" for the first time, even when you lived intimately with them for seven years.

TC said...

"I assumed you were writing a poem ABOUT Larry...?"

Curtis, thanks.

Thinking it over again, my only lingering questions about this "confusion" would be these:

1) The poem as I've posted it has the author's name and title (Larry Eigner: One of a Series) clearly printed both at the top of the post, in large red type, and at the bottom, in the credit attribution line (where the provenance. i.e. the source of the poem in the book you edited, is also made plain).

The identical information is provided in the archival index which may be accessed via the left marginal "Contents" link.

These presentations of information are clear enough to allow even an amnesiac to recognize this is a poem by Larry Eigner.

(2) In the above comment thread, further, responses by J, Anonymous, Stephen Ratcliffe, Leigh Tuplin and Jennifer Bartlett, along with my replies to their comments, again leave no doubt as to the authorship of the poem. Had you not bothered even to scan the comments before rushing in to declare your "assumption" and your "confusion"?

3) Is "assumption", anyway, a reliable foundation for comment?

Your "assumption" strikes me as derived from haste, predisposition to mistrust, and, most surprising, inability to recognize that such an unmistakable physical self-portrait of the poet Eigner -- absolutely distinctive to anyone who ever spent ten seconds in his presence -- could not conceivably have been composed by anyone else.

I think there may perhaps be further assumptions involved. The assumption, for example, that a Larry Eigner poem cannot have a justified left margin. How can you have typed this piece without noticing that it marks a formal watershed moment in Eigner's work, the last of his poems to observe such "traditional" physical lineation structure?

Don't you find both the narrative self-presentation and the physical presentation of the poem to be unique for Eigner, in the senses just described? And, as such, memorable?

And then too: in Volume IV of the Collected, Notes to EARLY POEMS (1950)-1958), page iv, the following information is given:

"I,54 O n e o f a S e r i e s LE note in Stanford ts: 'A veritable sonnet, I do believe, the 3rd and last I've done. Date: 1951 or so.'"

Can it be that among your "assumptions" is the predisposition to disbelieve that a poem with a legible narrative self-presentation and a standardized left margin, in sonnet form and identified as such by the author in his own typescript note, could possibly have been written by the Larry Eigner you wish to represent in your edition?

4) And finally, as your referring link to this post came from Ron Silliman, and as the Silliman link was to "Larry Eigner: One of a Series", I wonder if you were "assuming" that Ron Silliman too was in "confusion" as to the authorship of the Eigner poem to which he was linking?

Curtis, I took pains to design and present this magnificent and inimitable Larry Eigner poem in a format that would allow it to be experienced, whether "'as if' for the first time", or actually for the first time, to its best advantage.

It is a sadness to me that you seem to have been unable to experience it in either of those ways, but rather as "a poem ABOUT Larry".

I do hope that in time you will be able to return anew to this post, and to look at it with fresh eyes, directed outward.

Curtis Faville said...


I think the confusion about authorship derives in part from the way in which you post your entries.

The title of each entry is naked, usually above a photo or illustration.

Then you put a text--prose, description, verse or some combination of these, underneath that.

The "author" of the piece is frequently obscured by this kind of arrangement.

It fooled me. I took the lead title of the post as the title of the post, rather than of a poem--"the" poem being posted.

The usual format for reprinting a poem is to put the title immediately above the body of the poem, then to put the author's name (perhaps behind a dash), which is how I usually do it.

Putting a poem "naked" beside a photograph, without any textual pointers, can cause this kind of confusion. In fact, in attempting to locate the poem in the Collected index, I failed to note that the title of your post was the title of the poem. Trying to find a poem, especially one that is not a familiar one, directly from memory, isn't easy.

What I try to do, to avoid this kind of confusion, is to make it clear where the poem (with title) begins and ends.

Your blog emphasizes the visual nature of your imagination. The images are integral to the message you're conveying. But certain queues might be useful in drawing connections. For instance, I'm unclear on what your present Wyo-Booming consists of. Are these poetry-journal entries of a trip you made--in the past--or reconstructions from memory, or composed now from visual inspiration, or...something else. Maybe the fact of this indeterminacy is part of the point. Which is okay too.

Anyway, don't be sad on my account. I read Larry's work every day. I'll be writing more about it in the future, as I understand you will be too.

Lovely light coming just now through my west window, light through parting clouds, better than a Turner [5:30 PM).

TC said...


Ah, that lovely late afternoon light, I can just imagine it. Down here all we can see in late afternoon is the same thing we can see in the morning: cars rushing back and forth between up where you are and the freeway.

I don't mean to belabour the issue of why you couldn't figure out that the Larry poem was a Larry poem.

Of the 163,000 visitors to this blog, so far you are the first to claim they missed the title of a post.

Paying attention is paying attention. Everybody matches their interests against their time economies. Of course if you're not really interested and looking is merely an annoying chore you're more likely to miss what's there.

I design my blog to be a contemplative space for reading and looking, not for buying or business or hurrying. It is meant to be a space for reflection, away from that whole getting and spending cycle which absorbs most people's time and attention and lives. Obviously it's not for everybody.

I can't make people pay attention. In fact I can't afford to concern myself with anything except trying to provide an occasion in these posts for relatively tranquil pleasure and intelligent peaceful concentration. There are some people who find that precious. It is for them that I do the blog.

As to your questions concerning the Wyoming posts and the provenance of the writings there, my reply would be to repeat everything I've said above about actually taking the time to pay attention.

In the event you are truly interested, your questions on this score have been fully answered in several previous posts as well as in the comment threads on the present ones.

You might have a look at this:

For Edward Dorn (II): Wind River Canyon in Snow.

And in the present case, I've gone into all this in the comments here and here.

Thanks very much for taking the trouble to write back, I do appreciate that.

Steven Fama said...

Confusion too because the Eigner poem is not presented in Courier font, even though in Blogger it easily could have been done.

I highly suggest all Eigner poems on Blogger, regardless of margins, be put up as scans or, if typed out, be posted in Courier. It's easy to do, and it makes the poems look very similar to how Eigner actually typed them.

Anonymous said...

I think, that you are mistaken. I can defend the position. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.