Larry Eigner

LARRY EIGNER (1927-1996)

"search the
spontaneous thing”
—Larry Eigner, “The Fine Life,”
On My Eyes

“the test of projectivism’s
commitment to voice must
be the poetry of Larry Eigner”
—Ron Silliman, “Afterword,”
Close Listening

“riveted by the uncanny
democracy of details”
—Charles Bernstein
“Again Eigner,” My Way:
Speeches and Poems

I was reading Eigner last night—
A root canal throbbing in my head.
Nothing like pain & pain-killers to get
Your mind off the mind-body connection.
Even when the pain is masked—
It’s still there lurking inside you…

Eigner all tangled up in his body—
A severe case of cerebral palsy…
Struggling with each letter to get it
Typed on a piece of paper & read by
Somebody else with it projected on
A screen for the audience to follow…

Projecting himself more like Duncan—
Than Olson’s Black Mountain breath
Not with a “force field” but more with
A “text field” like “Often I am Permitted”
Folding over the landscape with a new
Postmodern secondary orality…

Doing it yrself in a new way—
Laboring like a craftsman to produce a
“Cliché-free” innovation for his
Handicapped poetics limited by
The cerebral palsy paralyzing him…
A disabled poet wanting to be free.

Creeley says “Speech / is a mouth”—
But for Eigner poetry / is a pair of ears.
That’s all that was left after a botched
Forceps delivery: recalcitrant silences
And a neurological condition mediating
All aspects of Eigner’s life…

Eigner’s LangPo rejection of sentences—
Ditching the dominant ableist rhetoric,
Suppressing predication and syntactic
Closure, performing text without center,
Noun phrases more mobile & a function
Of alternate indeterminate syntax…

Each Eigner poem a confused harbor—
“when you search the / spontaneous thing”
His whole world wanting to be serious…
But how can it in a future where the parts
Can never be a whole and sparrows are
Always disappearing in a slope of dirt?

How can there be anything spontaneous—
When your whole body is one big limp
Subordinate clause, shutting out the world,
Each movement paratactic & spastic, each
Struggling word on paper paraphrasable
Down to each idiotic break & spacing?

How can you “do it yrself” when—
“belief / shuts the air // like the whole
world,” trying to make sense of it, trying
to make a coherent reading of an entire
poem when it’s impossible even to reach
out sometimes & touch the keyboard?

The modernist sense of collage—
Ends up how Eigner pushes poetry to the
Limits, giving us the pleasure of the text
As Roland Barthes would say, just enough
To make the fine line between continuity &
Discontinuity a pleasurable reading…

Not just one perception immediately—
Following another but more like barely
Just one word or phrase broken down by
A broken body frustrated with language
We can never know yet he does it himself
Better than Charles Olson or Edward Dorn…

More like Karlheinz Stockhausen—
Radically altering musical thinking
Into a series of “moment forms” &
Present moments full of disruptive
Stretches of discontinuous words
Centered on “Do it yrself…”

What happens when it opens up—
When parataxis rules rather than the
Usual grammatical cohesion and
Typography and cognitive glue
Sticking things together to create
Perspective & illusionistic space?

Sitting in his glassed-in porch—
Eigner takes discrete fragmented
Snapshots focusing on things with
Lack of grammatical closure and
Syntactic cohesion destabilizing
Crane & Williams’ lyrical voice.

The view from the porch opens up—
The Black Mountain poetic as a
Simple “Composition by Field” with
Its arrangement of disconnected
Snapshots, flashbacks, observations,
Quotations embracing a front lawn.

Clipped & manicured like the lawn—
What could be so simple or more
Complicated than such constellations
Of stars, cars, boys, neighbors and
Sidewalks self-sustaining and free
And unconcerned with you or me?

A different mode of mobility—
Helps the “shut-in” disabled poet
Type interrelated spaces, pages, rooms,
Weather & cityscape into poetry after
Cryosurgery centers the index finger of
His right hand into Swampscott muse…

When, wandering, Eigner looked up—
The fresh air, the clarity of the shore,
Its shadows, mostly, brilliant summer,
Saying nothing to himself, language
Not a luxury but rather a disjunctive
Necessity of being a disabled poet?

What sustaining air buoys him—
Time standing still for dark swimmers,
The wind like an ocean, naked seas
Each a different dream, all stinking
Fresh like the awkward neighbor boy
Taller than the cars along the street?

That letter Eigner wrote to Duncan—
“You don’t realize how mature you
Get when you’re a spastic 21 year-old
Virgin, I can’t look back like you,
Nothing you’ve done is like this body
Of mine like a fish constantly hooked…”

“No flake diamonds of the sea—
The somehow disfiguring weeds
And smells of damp boyhood that
Clog up the usual queenly sewage,
The newspulp breathing in & out,
The knuckled murk of dirty shorts…”

Snow on the neighborhood—
Phonepoles, flagpoles, windowsills,
A spiderweb hitched to the dictionary,
Open garage doors into blackness,
The backyard angling out, just a
Bunch of plain ordinary objects…

“I’ve felt it like you said—
There’s nothing more to say, Robert,
There’s lots to talk about but the
The words are just words for me,
When you talk about Jesse I end up
An animal noise not a man’s cry.”

“I can’t go there or see backwards—
the crickets know the evening and
I know the silence of being hungry,
The elm trees line the boulevard
And between the branches the
Stars shine down on rotten fish…”

“Is it serious or merely funny—
The miasma of art, seeing all the
Levels of the world, seniors in wigs,
Alone in old stone mansions, all
The people, the cars, the subways,
The planes, constant ephemerals…”

“They nod at me & I agree—
It’s rather nice being in an important
Postmodern anthology, times passes,
The pages yellow, the words like leaves
Stack up on the sidewalks, even the
Curb seems to shrug goodbye…”

“A gone world by any other name—
clouds up like any winter or summer
day, a broken hinge on the garage
door still holds, the green lawn sleeps,
the sprinkler turns around & around,
as I struggle to touch the keyboard…”

“things could be worse I suppose—
falling in love & getting kicked out of
bed, unrequited love for somebody &
all the comic imagery involved, how
much time wasted on what lovers do,
but then how would I know?”

Sunlight sucking shadows blind—
Morning afternoon evening sitting
Here typing twisting reading what
Other poets have to say, missing
Out on something though…

Here I am in Swampscott MA—
Listening to Cid Corman on the
Radio WMEX in Boston then later
Creeley Olson Blackburn a vast
Collage of haiku chunks, sound
Bytes, found poetry airwaves…

Here I am enjambing myself—
Separating & isolating myself with
The radio turned off but still the
Inward performance of reading
Writing parenthetically to myself,
Teaching myself to listen poetically.

Learning to “do it yrself” isn’t easy—
Letting conversations bleed into each
Other casually like a Red Sox game,
A gangly kid coming down the street,
The neighbors talking to each other,
I’m into “trinaural listening” now…

Fragmented language bleeds—
Gets more complicated than clouds
Or stars, networks of unconnected
Clauses & phrases makes listening
And hearing unfocused and cubist
Like a painting by Picasso…

Different kinds of aural passages—
A more radical sense of radiophonic
Contingency, bits of a story, incomplete
Connections, interviews half overheard,
Interrupted by noises, snippets of gone
Voices out of context, me listening…

Poetry as last-ditch prosthetic device—
Empowering me to get out of the closet
And test my commitment to the disability
Body politic which approximates my own
Speech, hesitant, laborious, one letter
At a time on a manual keyboard…

I project my palsied body into space—
See how cleverly I critique my crippled self
Typographically with these little graphic
Marks on a page of paper, representing
My refusal to be a disabled poet, finding
Power in the musculature of written words?

What is the nature of this writing—
This inward performance of a man who
Can’t perform a declarative sentence,
Who can’t speak words like normal poets
Speak, give readings, give book-signing
Parties in Barnes & Noble literary soirees?

Now & then I do it myself—
They turn on the radio for me and I
Listen to a Red Sox game, the cars
Line the streets, the lawns are green,
I’ve got this trinaural hearing thing,
Listen to my mind cleave yours…

1 comment:

Ed Baker said...

who you?

I guess 'cheers' are
in order

will pass this on to sum of those yet around who can appreciate this