Friday, April 23, 2010


More than three decades have passed since I first came across the work of Larry Eigner. I was reading a remaindered copy of The Gist of Origin (in those days nearly every book I owned was remaindered), in which Cid Corman had offered up a stunning selection from the run of his journal, 1951-1971. This was the context in which I first read Eigner, as Origin had itself been the first context in which many had encountered his poetry starting in 1954. Over the years I made it a point to get hold of each new Eigner book I heard of; I doubt that many heard of them all, they were so many. Still, my only access to his early work, aside from the Origin anthology, had been the Selected Poems edited by Samuel Charters and Andrea Wyatt back in 1972. By the time I found a copy of that book, Andrea had relocated from the San Francisco Bay area to D.C. and had become part of a group of poets gathering in Folio Books just off Dupont Circle. That's where I first met her; she was assembling the pages of a chapbook and stapling them together behind the counter of the store. (Later there was a memorable evening when I drove her and Joanne Jimason over to Annapolis for a reading.)

At any rate, when I saw that an Eigner Collected Poems was about to be released I was taken aback by the announced price, which seemed to destine the book to be a library-only read. But it turned out that the Collected is four beautifully produced hardback volumes, and so turns out to be something of a bargain. Here you can read the book of poems that Eigner published while still a high school student, then follow the evolution of his aesthetic in the years leading up to those Origin appearances, and then through the rest of his long and productive life. The collected includes many poems that had not been available anywhere else, and many pages of holographic reproductions of his typescripts. As a scholar I might wish for more of an apparatus than the Collected offers, but the editors, Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier, have produced a wonderful set of volumes that I will be rereading for years. These things are hard to judge. At this price and bulk, the Collected is not going to wind up in many readers' book bags (let alone KINDLES); if it was going to be mostly a library edition, maybe more scholarly equipment might have been a good idea. On the other hand, these are books designed to afford an immersive reading experience.

Talk about interactive:

a l l r i g h t

there is no cure pieces
slide around
the skies clouds
and smoke
a pure clothing

what we need is some
laboring god

and they solicited

about love

hiding the point
when I submitted
(June 25, 1962)

1 comment:

Ed Baker said...

not necessary to " judge"
:each (thing) just as it is
adequate...let it accrue.

wanna read some letters re: The Gist of Origin
as when it was being produced/published?

on my site are / is Restoration Letters