Larry Eigner (August 7, 1927 – February 3, 1996), also known as Laurence Joel Eigner, was an American poet of the second half of the twentieth century and one of the principal figures of the Black Mountain School.
Eigner is associated with the Black Mountain poets and was influential among Language poets. Highlighting Eigner's influence on the "Language School" of poetry, his work often appeared in the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and was featured on the front page of its inaugural issue in February 1978.
Ron Silliman dedicated the 1986 anthology of Language poetry, In the American Tree, to Eigner. In the introduction to In the American Tree, Silliman identifies Eigner as a poet who has "transcended the problematic constraints" of Olson's speech-based projectivist poetics. Eigner has himself pointed out that his poetry originates in ‘thinking’ rather than speech.
Life and work
"Following out from experiments in the work of Cummings, Pound and Williams [...] Larry Eigner’s mature writing is perhaps the best (and most varied) fulfillment we have, to date, of tendencies and possibilities regarding the use of space in poetry gathered into and ‘projected’ out into the future of American poetry by Olson’s theory of composition by field."
Eigner was critically palsied as a result of a bungled forceps delivery at birth. Eigner grew up in Swampscott, Massachusetts. Despite his impairments, Eigner's mother, Bessie, was an advocate for his education. Eigner began writing poetry around the age of 8, which he transcribed to his mother and brother, Richard. He attended middle school at Massachusetts Hospital School and completed high school and some college (at the University of Chicago) through correspondence. His first works were published at age 9. As he matured into an artist, Eigner overcame many physical obstacles and limitations to achieve a mastery over the material text, producing his typescripts on a 1940 Royal manual typewriter using only his right index finger and thumb.
Perhaps the best realization to date of the idea of "composition by field" proposed by Charles Olson in his landmark essay "Projective Verse," the physical act of writing took tremendous effort from Eigner.
Larry Eigner authored more than 40 books, among them From the Sustaining Air (1953), Another Time in Fragments (1967), Country/Harbor/Quiet/Act/Around-selected prose (1978), and Waters/Places/a Time (1983). His work appeared in well over a hundred magazines and collections, most notably Origin, The Black Mountain Review, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and in Don Allen's anthology The New American Poetry. In 2010, Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, Volumes 1–4 (Vol. I: 1937–1958; Vol. II: 1958–1966; Vol. III: 1966–1978; Vol. IV: 1978–1995). The four volumes were edited by Robert Grenier and Curtis Faville.
- LCNAF on-line (Library of Congress Authority Files) lists Eigner's full name as Laurence Joel Eigner
- and for many poets, including Eigner, this centered around Charles Olson at Black Mountain College in the mid-20th Century.
- particularly Ron Silliman and Charles Bernstein, both of whom are on record as admirers of his work
- Silliman, Ronald, ed. In the American Tree. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1986.
- Silliman, Ronald, ed. In the American Tree. Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 1986. xvii.
- "Larry Eigner Biography - (1927–1996), In the American Tree, Selected Poems, Things Stirring Together or Far Away". Jrank.org. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- "Bukowski's first published interview, by Arnold L. Kaye, Los Angeles Correspondent to the Chicago Literary Times, March, 1963". Bukowski.net. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
- Robert Grenier. "Introduction" to The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine
- Eigner was able to "create shifting constellations of words in space whose musical and visual designs are realized in a language at once immediate and highly abstract, according to his publisher's page at Stanford University Press's Eigner page
- "Introduction to ''The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner'' by Robert Grenier". Sibila.com.br. Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- the physicality of each line is something that Ron Silliman notes in many places, including his widely read poetry weblog See External links below
- "Roof Books". Roof Books. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- "Larry Eigner (1927-1996) - An online tribute edited by Loss Pequeño Glazier (Eigner's online tribute/obituary page at SUNY-Buffalo's Electronic Poetry Center)". Epc.buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2011-06-24.
- The Larry Eigner Project Kickstarter
- Jennifer Bartlett. "Bartlett on Eigner", Jennifer Bartlett, Poet. November 17, 2015.
- Eigner exhibits, sites and homepages
- Larry Eigner Author Homepage at EPC
- Larry Eigner Papers housed at Stanford University
- Larry Eigner Papers housed at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
- Eigner Author Page at Stanford University Press The publisher of The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, Volumes 1-4 offers extensive resources on Eigner's life to include reviews, descriptions, and a pdf file of editor Robert Grenier's "Introduction"
- Larry Eigner page at PENNSound include audiofiles of readings and interviews
- of the Larry Eigner Papers hosted by Online Archive of California (OAC)
- Larry Eigner Papers at Brown University Library
- Selected online publications, poems and poetry
- Air the Trees Originally published by Black Sparrow Press in 1968 and long out of print, the text is presented here on-line and complete
- “how many years / without death”: Larry Eigner's memento mori five poems from readiness / enough / depends / on, then a brief essay
- TOTTEL'S #15: Larry Eigner Issue
- Reviews and perspectives
- The Same Old Things: The poetry of Larry Eigner essay on Eigner's poetry in Jacket
- Reading Eigner and readiness / enough / depends / on Poet and indefatigable blogger Ron Silliman discusses a recent Eigner (posthumous) publication
- Missing Larry: The Poetics of Disability in Larry Eigner This online essay makes up Chapter 5 of poet and scholar Michael Davidson's book Concerto for the Left Hand; Disability and the Defamiliar Body, published by University of Michigan Press in 2008.
- Born from the Head - Larry Eigner's 1st Published Poem in 1952 this essay is by Curtis Faville, who coedited Eigner's Collected
- ¿¿ Fidelity to Eigner’s Poem-Pages ??(no no oh no oh no no no) Here began a controversy surrounding the 2010 publication of Eigners Collected initiated by Steven Fama. Fama argues that the editors and publishers of the Collected have not shown the requisite fidelity to the spacing & visual presentation of Eigner's typescripts. In the comment section after the article, a coeditor of the Collected, Curtis Faville, defends the editorial decisions made to bring a Collected Eigner into print.
- "I have lived with the poetry of Larry Eigner for 45 years Ron Silliman's first response to the publication of Eigner's Collected. Silliman also weighs in on the publication controversy surrounding the layout of the Collected.