Monday, November 9, 2009

Aimless Reading: The E's, Part 4.1 (Larry Eigner)

Eigner, Larry
Things Stirring
Or Far Away

When I picked up this book this morning I wasn't sure where I had purchased it. I was going to guess either Talking Leaves or Rust Belt Books, but then I could find no telltale price written into the upper right hand corner of the first page, so I had my doubts.

I began flipping through the pages to see if something stirred in my memory when all of a sudden out popped a bookmark from the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square. This means I probably purchased it in 1999, right around this time of year.

My friend and classmate at Buffalo, Yunte Huang, blazed through his dissertation so fast that he had to pretend he hadn't finished in order to secure is final year of funding. He went out on the market in the fall and came back from the MLA to discover a message on his answering machine with a job offer from Harvard. Off he went the following fall, which I am pretty sure would have been 1999. I went to visit him over the thanksgiving holiday for a couple of days. He and his wife had a great apartment right off the square and walking distance from pretty much everything.

He took me around to the English department and showed me his office in the basement and told me about how Helen Vendler had helped his wife choose a piano and how when he had asked her about Language writing she said that she had nothing against it personally, it just didn't interest her.

He told me about all of the perks of being a harvard professor, like a book buying budget and lots of intelligent grad student assistants to help him with his research. We laughed when he told me how much of his time was spent answering phone calls from various media as an "authority" on a given subject. It seemed to me that that was the primary function of a place like Harvard -- to produce (and reproduce) authority.

He also took me by the statue of John Harvard, whose one toe was all shiny because everyone had walked up and placed their hand on the same spot over the years, this having become a tradition.

As we walked around Harvard Square I looked up and saw a familiar face -- it was K., my friend from Russia. I believe I described this incident in an earlier post, yes I did, here it is.

Anyhow, at some point during the day, we ended up at the Grolier Poetry Book Store, where I apparently bought this book by Larry Eigner. It must have been there a long time because the cover is now yellowing somewhat seriously and it hasn't spent any time in the sun since I have owned it.

   various ways
streets hold
     momentarily   each
       tinderbox   familiar

         infinite windows

      the fear of the cost of false alarms

       rays of the telegraph


          old south church

           pulled through

            the past like fiction


            the park we walked

           cross there


            100 years

             there was grass

I love the line, "the fear of the cost of false alarms." I also wonder about the line, "the park we walked," given that Eigner himself could not. Is it some kind of imagination of the past he refers to in the lines that precede and follow it? Or some fantasy of perambulation? Or does he mean he crossed with someone else who walked behind him, pushing the wheelchair? Feel free to comment. Or just to say hello.

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