The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, Volume III
[The Corrected Replacement]
[The Corrected Replacement]
Shortly after Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner earlier this year I pointed out – among other things – that a particular page had been mistakenly repeated, and that as a result two poems were missing. I’m pretty sure I was the first to write about, and maybe the first to notice this glitch, found at page 1074 in Volume III.
The two “missing” Eigner poems, I am happy to report, are now available. Available, actually, in no less than three ways, with one of those options a full-on replacement volume that bespeaks a remarkable devotion to the poetry and book-object that is The Collected Eigner.
First, a pdf of the missing page can be downloaded at the publisher’s website (click here to see it). For those who prefer a more elegant insert, a copy of the page printed on paper matching that used in the book can be obtained via request from Stanford (click here for details).
Finally – and this is the holy 1940 portable Royal Typewriter news here, and not only because was announced in the last two weeks – those who bought the books can if they like send their copy of Volume III, plus ten bucks, to co-editor Curtis Faville, and receive back a corrected replacement copy in which the “missing” poems have been restored to their rightful place on the page. The Stanford website (click here) has the specifics about how to get that done.
This replacement volume – a result of re-setting the repeated page, then re-printing and re-binding a 600 page clothbound book – must have cost thousands of dollars (think about the supplies, and the manufacturing expense). Given that doing this resulted in all 3,000 plus poems now being included in the books, at least for those who obtain a replacement, I must say that doing a full re-do represents a devotion to Eigner’s poetry, and to the books, that is remarkable and glorious.
The Stanford website, in explaining how to obtain the replacement book, emphasizes that neither the publisher nor distributor can handle the exchange and do not maintain an inventory of the corrected Volume III. From this, you can deduce that they had nothing to do with the new Volume III. Instead, I’m told that Larry Eigner’s literary estate underwrote the corrected reprinting of Volume III, to remedy a fault which occurred in the final proofing of the text for the printing company. May all poets and writers have executors with such devotion to the work.
One of the two “missing” poems – and again they are available on-line (click here) – is a short, five-liner (Eigner # 625, dated January 8, 1973), and may I suggest you take a look, as it is interesting, arising both from place and – maybe – poetic practice:
Energy’s not hereAs with many Eigner poems, this one’s a moment (or two or three) of (and/or in), time: a record in words of thought as it proceeds. This particular poem-moment seems on one level to directly concern Eigner’s actual workspace, at the time it was written: the glassed-in sunroom / front porch of the lower level duplex at 23 Bates Road, Swampscott, Massachusetts.
now things look cluttered
there is no design
I understand that Eigner was something of a pack-rat and not particularly well-organized, with the latter tendency no doubt partly related to his palsy, which limited whether and/or how easily he could reach spaces and move things around. A photograph taken later in life (after his move to Berkeley) suggests how his workspace could be, with much paper and all not in good order though relatively within reach:
The poem set out above, with regard to the thinking reflected or documented concerning the work area, is straightforward: without Eigner bringing his energy to the place, the clutter – a byproduct of his method of keeping things easy (“convenience”) – dominates to the point of claustrophobia. Given Eigner’s mobility impairment, I trust highly his statement of the fear of having no escape and being closed in. But despite his particular circumstances, the feeling documented seems universal. We’ve all sensed – haven’t we? – how tiredness or other lack of mental sharpness results in that feeling of trapped hopelessness.
Can this poem also be read, on another level, as a self-critique of a particular (though not specifically identified) work? Is it, almost paradoxically, an inspired presentation of what had been a moment or three of uninspired poem-making? I don’t know, of course, but everything in the poem that could be read as concerning his work area could also apply to a poem that Eigner wrote that, to his mind, didn’t make it.
In this regard, I’m especially intrigued by the “after convenience / there is no design” phrase. Eigner himself said with regard to his poetry, “everything on the page matters” and was known to take great care – despite the challenge of the palsy – to precisely line up or array letters, words, lines, and spaces.
If Eigner in a particular instance did not have the creative or other energy to bring off his exacting, carefully considered approach – if he put the words down, let us say, without design and just did what was convenient – surely he might see the resulting poem as claustrophobic clutter (the poet caught in a creative corner). This interpretation of the poem may be a stretch, but I like thinking of “Energy’s not here” as “about” both a physical place (and thus by extension any place) and a poem (and thus many other poems, by Eigner and others) that never made it.
This post is the seventh I’ve done concerning The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner (click on each phrase, if you’d like, to read the previous posts, which concern: the margins, my struggle with those margins, a gathering of poet-reader responses to Eigner, a gathering of quotations from Eigner on his work and poetics; Eigner’s poems-from-the-news, and his poems-with-lines-of-but-one-word). I’ve at least one more to put up, and it’s one I’ve written in my mind at least, concerning one or two, I guess it may be, of the more unusual poems in the book.
You know, it puzzles and disappoints me that after what I’d call only a bit of attention early on, The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner – especially discussions of the actual poetry in the books – appears to have fallen off the literary map. I guess maybe people are busy. At least I hope that’s what’s going on.
Look, Charles Bernstein’s dream, shared in February, of The Collected Eigner getting reviewed in The New York Times and the subject of a long article in The New Yorker (click here and see the answer to the next-to-last question) may be far-fetched, but it’s not too much to expect something from poets who have the books and are Eigner readers. In this regard, I’d enjoy the reading the perceptions – even if “only” about a poem or two – of, let’s say, Ron Silliman, Geof Huth, and Jennifer Bartlett (though she’s dropped out of the blogosphere, it appears), among others. Eigner’s too little known. One way that might change is if we share our enthusiasm and responses to the poetry, out loud and in print.