Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Aimless Reading: The E's, Part 4.2 (Larry Eigner)

Selected Poems
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Eigner, Larry
Selected Poems

Remarkably, I think I bought this book "new," that is, it had been sitting on the shelves of Talking Leaves since its publication in the 70's. I bought it for the wonderfully 70's price of $2.80. Hard to find a bookstore that won't mark up an out-of-print book like that, but that's why we love Talking Leaves. But wait, another stray bookmark -- does it reveal an alternate history? It says St. Mark's Book Shop. I must have bought it there. Equally glad they once were my neighborhood bookstore.

I have to stop myself each morning the past few days from reading the entire book. Larry Eigner is so great.

I seem to have a very different sense of him now than when I first read him. My first experience of his work was by way of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine. This sense of him as a forerunner of language writing made the work seem deliberately opaque and strange. I remember reading his poems the same way I might read a poem by Bruce Andrews, which I think was ultimately a mistake. His poems are at times difficult, but there's nothing consciously strange or strained about them. He seems very much to be working with what he has.

I think I read him now more through the lens of the New American Poetry, which makes the work seem much more vernacular, even in some sense narrative, the materiality of his language more an effect of the condition of the writing and of the writer, of his use of the typewriter and so forth, than a necessarily conscious foregrounding of materiality for its own sake.

In some of the poems, especially the early ones, I can even hear a New England accent, or, at least, a New England lilt to the speech. It's easy to see why Creeley took to the work so early. They very much speak the same dialect and share a certain world view rooted specifically in that place.

from the sustaining air

fresh air

There is the clarity of a shore
And shadow,  mostly,  brilliance

    the billows of August

When, wandering, I look from my page

I say nothing

  when asked

I am, finally, an incompetent, after all

1 comment:

Chris said...

I also bought my copy of this at the "cover" price, but at St Marks Books, in the mid-90s. They still had several books at ridiculously anachronistic prices then; it was good times.