Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner

¿¿ Fidelity to Eigner’s Poem-Pages ??
(no no oh no oh no no no)

Folks, I have some news that probably you aren’t going to like. It’s unfortunate, really, but must be said.

The just published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner (Stanford, 2010) is hugely flawed. The editors repeatedly claim that they present Eigner’s poems as he originally typed them, his exacting designs for each poem-page, but in fact markedly and fundamentally change the way the poems look on the page, in a way that greatly mars the poetry.

Specifically, compared with how Eigner actually made them (with a left-side margin set far closer to the center of each poem-page), each poem’s left-side margin has been shifted approximately two inches towards the left side of the page. As such, each poem is cramped close to the page edge and eliminates the space (the silence and the air) that surrounds Eigner’s work when set in accord with how he actually typed it.

As illustrated below, this design decision – which is neither acknowledged nor explained by the editors or publisher – greatly changes, for the worse, how Eigner’s marvelous and wondrous poems look, read, and feel.

Dear readers, I feel as if I’ve been had, as if a grand fraud has been foisted on the world of poetry. It’s an extreme disappointment, a real outrage. It’s an error so grievous, with respect to Eigner’s magnificent poems, that it almost makes me cry.

Editors Curtis Faville, Robert Grenier, and the publisher (Stanford) should be ashamed. It’s so bad – and I’m not kidding one bit – the publisher should recall all the books, pulp the entire edition, and start over. It’s that bad, it really is.


One of the key claims of The Collected Eigner is that it presents Eigner’s poems more or less just as he created them on the page. They do so because how the poem looked was key to the poet. The editors on this point rely on Eigner himself, quoting him (at page xxxvi of Vol. IV) as insisting that:
“ . . . everything you do on the page matters.”
The editors’ prefatory “A Note On The Text” (Vol. I, page xvi) reinforces this cardinal principle, stating that Eigner was “very particular about where everything went . . . .” The editorial appendix, touting the use of equivalent courier font (since that’s what Eigner used when he typed the poems), similarly states (at page xxxiii) that “Eigner regarded the setting of his poems . . . as organizations of exact spatial relationships.”

Along the same lines, editor Grenier, in his separate introduction (at page xii), emphasizes the importance of the typewriter’s “capacity to precisely indicate exactly where each letter ‘goes’” and the experiencing of Eigner’s poems as ‘beautiful’/exact letter-relations/marks in space – i.e., ‘typewriter calligraphy’!”

The editors thus used the equivalently spaced font, and the large, 8 ½ x 11" page “to replicate Larry Eigner’s ‘home page’ (during is life) – the platform into which all his great works ‘went’/the typewriter page . . .” (Vol. 1, page xvi). All this, they proclaim (in editor Faville’s words, atVolume 4, page xxxiii), “. . . in order that the original designs and settings are not lost . . . . ” The editors declare that they considered the “establish[ing of] a reliable benchmark” as “the first responsibility to Eigner’s text, [and] to present and future audiences, is to establish a reliable benchmark.” Id.

Well, they missed the mark, profoundly. Yes, they used an equivalently spaced font, same as Eigner’s typewriter, but that’s minor compared to what they didn’t do, which was honor AT ALL where Eigner placed his poem on the page with regard to the left and right margins or edges. Instead of doing what Eigner did in that regard, the editors here in hundreds and hundreds of poems shifted the left-side margin, and substantially so, towards the left edge of the page.

Let me be very specific. Poems that Eigner – the poet who insists that “everything on the page matters” – had typed such that the left margin was approximately 2" or 3" from the left-side of the page have been re-set so that the left-side margin is less than an inch ( approximately 13/16ths of an inch, to be more precise) from the left edge. In short, Eigner’s decision to set his margins closer to the middle of the page – a decision which gives his words and lines substantial space (or air, or silence) on the left side – IS ENTIRELY DISREGARDED, in poem after poem.

This act of editorial vandalism is outrageous and obvious to anyone who’s read any other book of Eigner poems. The poems in The Collected Eigner just don’t look right. Wait, that’s too dissembling. The poems here look wrong, very, very, wrong.

A shocking part of all this is that the evidence of the crime against the poetry is provided right in The Collected Eigner itself. The final volume contains images of almost 50 pages manuscript pages typed by Eigner. Take a look at those, compare them to the printed text, and you (anyone!) can plainly see how the poet actually put his poems on the page, and how the editors botched the job of replicating his creations.

If you love poetry and Eigner’s work it will, this is going to make you sick, but take a look please, compare a couple manuscript pages with the poems as presented on The Collected Eigner pages. Here’s a photo, with ruler added of a manuscript reproduced in Volume 4 at page 1717, of a poem (with the first line “the music of”) made by Eigner in May, 1971. This page as presented in the book appears slightly reduced from its actual size; nevertheless it is plain that the poem’s first line begins at least two and closer to three inches from the left edge of the paper on which Eigner typed (click to enlarge):

See? There’s ample space (again I’ll add silence and air) on both sides of the line. The poem, each of its lines, start near or around almost the center of the page. As such, it’s a beautiful work of calligraphed typewritten poetry, occupying in an interesting way the space between the left and right page edges.

And now here’s a photo of the same poem as printed in The Collected Eigner. As in the manuscript photo above, a ruler straddles the book’s gutter on the left. As such, you can clearly see that instead of a left margin of between two and three inches, the poem’s first line is placed a bit less than inch from the gutter:

This discrepancy or disparity between what was actually made and what is presented is apparent in every poem, at least every poem that I know. Here’s another example, starting with the manuscript page for a poem (first line = “the sound of”) which Eigner typed in 1975. This particular manuscript page is especially instructive because it happens to have a vertical line printed or drawn on it’s left side, near the actual edge of the paper. As such, there can be no question regarding the relation between the starting point of what Eigner considered the left edge, the margin he set, and the placement of the poem’s words and lines:

You see that vertical line, and the spacing between that left margin and the lines and words? It’s as if Eigner himself reminds us here of how exactly the poem is supposed to look on the page! The first line – from which all others take their cue, is a solid two inches in from the straight line near the left edge, and the entire poem presents as near the center of the page. Indeed, it’s final line ends well over the center of the page. The words are surrounded by silence, air, and space.

But alas, and ugh, and oh no oh no, here’s what we get in The Collected Eigner:

What a difference! Faville, Grenier, and Stanford give us a poem whose first line begins less than an inch from the left-side margin (the gutter) and whose last line – the furthest to the right – ends well short of the page’s horizontal center point. It looks cramped; heck, it is cramped, pushed way too the left, with the huge space to the poem’s right leaving the text looking forlorn, almost an after-thought, instead of the strong and unique calligraphic presence that Eigner created.


You follow me here? While claiming to honor the exacting nature of Eigner’s poems, The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner in fact mangles the work, badly, by substantially shifting the margins towards the left-side of the page. There’s no explanation for this, perhaps because none could be made. The poem-setting mis-presents, falsifies, the poems Eigner created.

By shifting the margins to the far left, the Stanford Collected Eigner straitjackets the poems; it constricts and suffocates them. They almost look still-born on the page. It’s an ugly look. Even more so because the surpassingly narrow left-side margin used (again, it’s only about 13/16ths of an inch) makes the poems, at least on the versos (the right-side pages) look as if they are about to dive into the big center gutter. The look here, the reading experience, the feel in the gut, is NOTHING like the beautiful poems that Eigner made, which if presented as he actually typed them are surrounded, particularly to their left, by much “sustaining air.”

I can’t imagine how this happened, or why it happened WITH NO EDITORIAL MENTION AT ALL, even as the book editors trumpet their supposed fidelity to Eigner’s poem-pages. Was there some perfect storm of bureaucratic dunderheadedness, poetic screw loose-osity, and/or institutional rigidity?

Let me put it another way: great effort, the editors tell us, went into making sure the precise space between the letters of Eigner’s letters was exactly perfect. But the matter of where the words went on the page, seemingly as great in importance in terms of what Eigner actually created, and for establishing an authentic edition of that work, was not only ignored, but (apparently) purposefully changed, in poem after poem. Without a word said about it, as if maybe they thought nobody would notice! “Nothing to see here, just move along.”

At this point, the reasons why this all happened don’t matter. It’s been published, in a brickhouse of an edition that’ll probably last three hundred years. The (mis)deed has been done, and it’s sickening. I love Eigner’s poetry deeply. These books profoundly violate his poems.

How sad.


End note:

Here, for your enjoyment and edification, is the final poem from Eigner’s first book, From The Sustaining Air (Divers Press, 1953). You’ll see, of course, that the poem has an ample left-side margin, as do all the poems in that book. In fact, that same sort of ample left-side margin marks the poems in all the Eigner collections I’ve ever seen, including On My Eyes (Jargon Press, 1959) and Selected Poems (Oyez, 1972). Of course, as shown above, it’s also what you see if you look at what Eigner actually created:



Ed Baker said...

I had thought hoped that they were gonna just replicate what how the originals were printed maybe even scan the originals and print/publish those... just as they atare/were.. I opened volume one and was suddenly struck by a computer generated/produced "thing"

the poems read ok.. but there is an absence and sense of presence that is and remains in the original productions

I too am disappointed!

post factum and discoambulated...

I think that I will keep the other 3 volumes in their cellophane wraps

and maybe wait until on the secondary market this is worth $300.00

why the fuck is everything worth a shit being dumbed down!

doesn't any body care about anything but the immediate $$$ and credentials?

I have friend who knew Larry.. and
I am as he was a pin yon a ben

one of my great regrets is that I never went up to meet him when introduced... long about 1971..

I have two cousins who also got fucked-up by shoddy deliveries... just like Larry...

thanks Steve...

bull-shit IS bull-shit...
no two ways about it

something just didn't sit right with me on initial look/feel... you pinned it down..

hang in, K.

Curtis Faville said...


I'm sorry that you may feel unable to appreciate Larry's poems within the dimensions of the format that was used.

There are a number of different theories--and aesthetic preferences--which compete for use in both traditional and "innovative" typographical practice.

Among the books that were made of Larry's poems, a number of different approaches were made over the years, and you can judge their effectiveness comparing how each feels to you on the page. There were a number of different kinds of adaptations, including the countless instances of periodical publication.

As I make clear in my essay "The Text as an Image of Itself", all decisions regarding type face, spacing, margins, and so on are aesthetic. Larry's practice in creating typewriter texts over the years changed. His left-hand margins weren't fixed. We explored both "infinitely" variable placement choices and more traditional ones.

Your preference for un-traditionally wide margins is eccentric. Would such wide margins serve a useful aesthetic purpose? One would, I think, have to make a case for that, not just using examples of some of Larry's typescripts--which do not, by the way support any single given preference--but seeing how it might be applied to different kinds (and shapes) of poems. In deciding how to present the texts, we had to determine whether or not to be consistent throughout the whole sequence of poems--and deviate from that when unavoidable--or to set each poem as if it were isolated on a single sheet of paper.

One thing Bob does note in his Introduction--which you apparently missed--is that he thinks of the presentation as facing (side-by-side) pages--as two sides of a whole visual field--the "page spread" as it were. Every set of facing pages was designed as a balanced pair. Seen from this perspective, the "balance" may be more evident.

Curtis Faville said...

Part II--

Early on, I imagined that many of the very shortest poems--in specific instances--might benefit from being centered. But the argument in favor of consistency involved not just the feel of individual poems, but how we could accommodate poems of differing lengths, while establishing a fixed left-hand margin. Many of Larry's poems extend well beyond the nominal right-hand margin of the page, even when started well left of center. What this meant in practical terms was that perhaps 30% of all the longer poems would have had to be either revised by being "squeezed" together, lapped over the way it was done with some of Olson's early Maximus pages, or continued on a subsequent page, a practice we did our best to minimize.

There is a strong intention in Larry's use of the page to get as much on each page as possible, a priority which outweighed the meaning of the principle of an eccentric (centered) starting-point. If, for instance, the poems had all been set with a left-hand margin 2 or 3 inches from the left, hundreds of the poems wouldn't have "fit" on the page--even with the very large page dimension we used.

For anyone wishing to "adapt" Larry's poems to a different typographic version and setting, our text provides an exact measure of how Larry typed them. One possible adaptation might be to set individual poems on recto facing pages only, letting each poem dictate the terms of its own visual placement on the page. In fact, that has been done previously, and the results can be, though are not necessarily always, satisfying.

Following your interpretation, the correct presentation would have meant, I presume, centering every poem on each page, without regard for the problem this might present in terms of how each poem might "share" its space with another poem on the same page, or how it might look when "mated" with the facing page. That would have meant abandoning a traditional left-hand guide to the frame of the page, a practice we explored, but rejected.

Seen as individual poems--as, for instance, with broadsides--centering has some attractions. But a bound book of sequent pages is different, especially when presenting the whole of a large body of work.

Curtis Faville said...


Nothing in the text was "computer generated."

A software typesetting program called "Quark" was originally intended, by us--under Stanford's direction--to be prepared for an "automated" file for submission. Over the years, the technology changed, but we stuck with the original software in order to prepare traditional "camera-ready" copy.

The sense of "presence" you posit is "in" the poems, not in the books. During his lifetime, Larry's work was NEVER presented in a way that showed complete fidelity to his settings. What you're responding to, presumably, was the varying aesthetic "interpretations" of it by others (editors, book designers, etc.).

Bob and I spent seven years on the text, and will receive nothing in payment for the publication. It was, technically, a thankless job.

The idea of "just replicat[ing] what how [sic] the originals were printed maybe even scan the originals and print/publish those" was an idea that was explored with the Black Sparrow Collected Books of Jack Spicer, edited by Robin Blaser. Spicer's concept of the book as a discrete unit was deliberate; Larry's work never was conceived this way. To have photographically reproduced all of Larry's books and magazine works, as if they were some kind of "original" (preferred) version would have made a very ugly book indeed.

Ed Baker said...

hy didn't y'all just scan the original first editions page by page and put 'em up that way?

I am certain that Larry "dug" how things were produced sa

as Black Sparrow (John Martin?) did The World And Its Streets, Places in 1977

or did you?

it s all gonna get more and more political, eh?

from The World nd Its Streets, Places

page 111

(not sure about how this computer will format this, however)..

out of
no thing, quiet, the air
the tree moves

you know
in this day and age
even if you win, you lose... go figure

Steven Fama said...

Curtis, how dare you.

The approach I suggest IN NO WAY suggests centering the poem on the page! NOr is it my preference.

It's Eigner's! He created each of those poems, on the page, just as the appear on the manuscript pages. How scary that you insist otherwise, that you say his spacing from the margins somehow doesn't matter or doesn't exist. Especially since the books, emphasize that it's being done in accord with Eigner's typocgraphic calligraphy.

I read all prefatory material, and the essay on text and the other appendices, a half-dozen times, carefully, and thought hard about what is written there. The failure to address the margin-shifting head-on is most telling. Nothing written there provides any sort of sense with respect to what was done to Eigner's poems as they look on the page.

You guys, and Stanford, have NOT provided anybody with any authentic guide to how to print Eigner. Eigner had space to the left side of his poems, on the page, and since "everything matters" on the page (his words), this new production just screws over the poems.

Ed Baker said...

y'all just didn't "get it" sorry don't take it personally

corporate america (stanford) was in control with the gelt..

what y'sall didn't get or pin down is that

the spaces on the page are AS IMPORTANT as the words ON THE PAGE!

egos aside...

no wonder Universities and there money grubbing presses are folding now that they got computers they hardly know what a book tastes like... or care!

they're just looking for more gimmicks to get students to pay-up

Curtis Faville said...


If you disagree about the position of the margins, what alternative would you suggest that could accommodate both the multiple poems per page (a necessity, given the number of poems) and their variously drifting widths? It's unclear what you're arguing for.

I understand that you disagree with the margin, but what would be your solution? Would you choose to start all the poems three inches from the left hand edge of the page, or to set each poem individually, without regard either for the other poems on the same (or facing) pages? You have to address these other questions at the same time you envision the discrete occasion of each poem.

I'd be interested to know how you'd have done it.

As a footnote to our discussion, a "holographic" edition has been discussed, but we don't have holographic versions for all the poems. In addition, there's the question of legibility. Few people would have the patience to parse Larry's typescripts methodically, as is implied by your comment.

Your criticism that we haven't given a complete "guide" of how to "print Eigner" begs the question. Each typographical decision--the approach to the whole issue, really--is an aesthetic one. What we did provide was an exact setting of each individual poem ("in space"). These poems could be set in any number of ways--as they routinely were by a number of different "interpreters" over the years. And there were those who recommended that we simply make the "prettiest" version we could think of. But that would have left posterity with just another replacement template of Larry's original work.

Steven, you may be one of those select few potential readers who would actually prefer to read the original holographs, just as there are some who would rather read Whitman or Dickinson in their original "hands" instead of in type. You are encouraged--if you can obtain permission--to examine Larry's typescripts themselves, at his archives at Stanford or Kansas.

However, "most people" I suspect would prefer to have clear, readable versions.

Curtis Faville said...

"y'all just didn't "get it" sorry don't take it personally

corporate america (stanford) was in control with the gelt.."

Ed: You seem to think there was some kind of manipulation going on with respect to our publication contract with Stanford University Press. Aside from a few very tiny adjustments, we were essentially given complete freedom on our planning of the edition. What you see is what we decided. Stanford had nothing to do with it. I even designed the dustwrappers for them.

'what y'sall didn't get or pin down is that

the spaces on the page are AS IMPORTANT as the words ON THE PAGE!'

Ed, I'll ask you the same question I asked of Steven. What would be your approach to the setting of individual poems? Would you center all of them, or decide on a case by case basis where you thought each poem "should be" on the page (which procedure, I'm sure you realize, flies in the face of all traditional historical typographical practice). We "get" very well that the poems could have been placed in dozens of ways, but we felt compelled to choose a consistent standard, which applied to the whole body of poems. There are indeed a number of poems for which this margin works perfectly, just as there would be other poems that sought different margins.

"no wonder Universities and there money grubbing presses are folding now that they got computers they hardly know what a book tastes like... or care!"

Stanford is probably the only university press in the world that would have done what we got. "Money grubbing"--??--this will undoubtedly be a loss-leader for them, as most of the academic treatises and monographs they publish are.

"they're just looking for more gimmicks to get students to pay-up"

I think it highly unlikely that Eigner's Collected Poems would ever be required of any college course, if that is what you're implying. It's clearly an academic edition, intended--as Stanford's previous edition of the Collected Jeffers was--for the serious student of the work.

Somehow, in your mind, you've constructed a conspiracy theory in which Stanford convinced us to make a high-tech version of a homely rural hybrid.

Why not read the work? Here's your chance. It's great stuff, much better than you'll find on the web!

Steven Fama said...

Curtis: As for what I'd have done:

1. I'd NEVER have been so high and mighty about getting the exact space between letters exactly perfect, and honoring Eigner's spatial relationships on the page, using the same size paper and equivalently-spaced font, knowing that I would be ignoring and changing the fundamental place of the poem on the page!

2. I'd have directly told everyone, in advance, that I was screwing with Eigner's margins, the way he created the poems on the page. I will forever be astonished by the collective failure to tell people in advance what was being done, or to directly discuss it in the books.

3. I'd of set each poem individually, of course! That's the only true way to go, especially given Eigner's cardinal principle that "everything on the page matters." Yep, individually set poems would be a big job, and result in something of a mish mash on the pages, but THE POEMS REQUIRE IT. So it'd be a true, accurate mish-mash. As opposed to the phony, artificial, untrue-to-the-poems mish mash of a mess (that looks ugly too) that was published.

Michael Carr said...

Having had some experience editing eccentric/complicated holograph texts -- such as manuscripts by John Wieners and Samuel Greenberg, and creating book-versions that attempt to capture a strong faithfulness to original -- I'm actually quite surprised as well at the choice made on this issue of Eigner's placement of his poems across the width of the MS page. The difficulty for the sensitive editor in such situations is in deciding which textually unique elements are important, or perhaps crucial, to try to retain from the manuscript, and which will have to be smoothed over by the necessities of layout, typeface, etc.

Now where Curtis Faville asks what his critics think they "should" have done, the answer is plainly that each poem would appear with roughly the same margins that it had in the original, regardless of how odd that might look compared to the poem underneath or on the opposite page from it -- that, at least in this particular case, is what I'd expect from an edition claiming to reproduce the important text-spacing from Eigner's original typewritten pages. Every poem would "fit" nicely on the page as it had in the original, readers would likely understand what they were getting from such a layout, and more to the point I personally think readers would also appreciate that such an element had been retained.

However this is easier said than done without knowing the full immensity of the task that was at hand for Faville & Grenier. Decisions must also be made when such faithfulness must extend itself to super-human efforts. And, bottom-line, every editor is eventually somewhere somehow going to make choices to suit her or his own preference. Nevertheless, some choices would seem to alter the veracity of claims about what a book is putting forth on behalf of its original manuscript(s).

Steven Fama said...

Thanks, Michael Carr, for sharing a point of view that brings some hands-on experience.

I think we are close to being on the same wavelength regarding The Collected Eigner's claim of what it is versus what it actually presents.

By the way -- I don't think I know you (forgive me if I've forgotten something), and in any event I gotta say thanks for the little Samuel Greenberg chap (Katalanché Press, 2005). What a different, more interesting, and fresher reading experience that was, with the idiosyncratic spellings and punctuation preserved, compared to the 1947 Henry Holt edition.

Ed Baker said...


thanks Michael Carr for the bite of a "just what it is" attitude.


heck, my heart skipped a beat when I saw/read your name as Michael Corr?


this project was/is an huge-huge thing to have been involved in ..

let us not ever forget the Love of that was necessary to "pull this off" and I am sure lots of folks who knew Larry
are gonna be boggled by this... the results..

what'd 'that' poet once say about a bad review of his latest book?

"Better a bad review (reaction) than a no review"

either way, interest is peeked.

Curtis Faville said...

I think the most difficult choice in presenting Larry's work was in accommodating the multiple poems per page, in order to control the total page count to a reasonable number. Having, for instance, two or three poems to a page meant that you couldn't simply pretend that both (or all three) poems had their own "space"--they had to "share" that space. From an ideal point of view, each poem "deserved/deserves" its own page. Privileging that point of view, in a large collected edition like this, would have meant page count somewhere nearer 4000 pages--obviously an impossibility.

The establishment of a traditional left-hand margin for the edition has many precedents, but its chief value was in accommodating the greatest variety of poems (/widths) across the range of his work.

I think, interpreting from what Steven has said, he would have chosen a centered placement for most--if not all--the poems. There's precedent for that, and it's one alternative that could have worked.

However, I reject the idea that Eigner's typescript margins create some kind of precedent for wide left-hand margin. That strikes me as quite eccentric, causing (as it would) a number of problems with line-"drift" off the right-hand edge, for poems of greater horizontal extent.

Another thing I notice is Steven's posting of the poem "From the sustaining air" from its original incarnation: For my taste, it's placed way too far to the right of center. In my view, one could make a case for putting it on the left-hand margin, or centering it, but placing it right of center seems wrong.

Curtis Faville said...

Michael Carr:

You say--

"Every poem would "fit" nicely on the page as it had in the original, readers would likely understand what they were getting from such a layout, and more to the point I personally think readers would also appreciate that such an element had been retained."

Few of Larry's longer poems would have "'fit' nicely on the page as it had in the original." Larry's use of the typewriter was limited by his disability; typically, he would run out of space and finish a poem on the left hand side of the same page. In addition, Larry's corrections were often made by typing over or above the same place in the poem. Obviously, this was not what Eigner intended for the ultimate form of his separate poems.

In my view, the typescripts must be regarded as "work areas"--carrying all the messiness and roughness which that implies. I see them less as aesthetic objects than as directions. However, Larry was quite clear about the horizontal spacing issue. In his correspondence, as well as in discussion, his main preoccupation was with how the lines were set, in respect to each other within a single poem. During his lifetime, his poems were printed in countless different ways, but margins weren't the crucial issue.

Steven Fama said...


Your view as to what is "quite eccentric" regarding poem placement on the page, and your taste as to whether poems are set too close to the page center ARE IMMATERIAL.

It was the poet -- Larry Eigner -- "everything on the page matters" -- who decided where his poems went on the page. Your job, absent some arrogating entitlement that I SPIT ON, was to put his poems out there as he created them.

You all did to Eigner's work what the early "editors" and publishers did to the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

To say nothing of the conflict between what was done (the shifted left-side margin) and the assertion that the poems were published just as Eigner wrote them. And the refusal to DISCUSS WHAT WAS DONE, despite words piled on words (pages) of editorial material, including two separate essays on the text itself.

Publish the dummies -- and there should be at least a tenth of the book, if there was truly a concerted effort to see what it looked like -- in which you all EVEN TRIED to see what the pages would look like with the poems published as Eigner in fact created them.

The idea that the pages of the Stanford book, with its shifted poem margins, reduced size type-face, and bolded poem identifying information (which was necessary) have somehow been made into something pretty, is laughable. This is an academic book, done by an academic institution, designed for academic purposes. All of which is fine, since the point was o establish the Eigner text for all time). It was never going to be a fine-looking page, but a work-text.

The problem with this work-text, the HUGE one, is that it ain't accurate. Those aren't Eigner's poems, but his work strained through some artificial editorial constraint. Folks in the future, to REALLY publisher Eigner right, will need to go to the original or copies, to see where Eigner in fact placed his poems on the page.

I can't believe you all made Eigner into a narrow left margin poet, and think there is anything that can be said to justify it!

Ed Baker said...

us (me) see if n I can UNCONDITIONALLY get a handle on my foot-in-the-door platitude:

from this passage:

"Ed, I'll ask you the same question I asked of Steven. What would be your approach to the setting of individual poems? Would you center all of them, or decide on a case by case basis where you thought each poem "should be" on the page (which procedure, I'm sure you realize, flies in the face of all traditional historical typographical practice). We "get" very well that the poems could have been placed in dozens of ways, but we felt compelled to choose a consistent standard, which applied to the whole body of poems. There are indeed a number of poems for which this margin works perfectly, just as there would be other poems that sought different margins."

to answer your first question the opening one:

I answered that question in 1971/72 in my

POINTS/COUNTERPOINTS and a bit more (seemingly) intelligently in my MA thesis (Hopkins, 71 or 72)

all this done prior to reading any Eigner and before puters dumbed all of us and most everything
waayyyyyy down..

heck... had Larry been able to manipulate the paper itself he would have written on the pages' edged most assuredly wld have gone "over the edge" willy-nilly-ly laughing all the way...

I tell yuh

the page is the page and the words are the words and the spaces are the space and the images are the images and the meanings always come aftyer the EVENT! Pound had a bit of a clue as to this nonduality of paper/image: un (in?) separable.. like via Fenollossa's wife saving that ms and sending it to him..
but he didn't quite "get it"

he was writing the poems... writing Poetry rather than the other way around the poem writing itself..

he seperated subject and object... Lary seperated nothing out.. very rare an Unity of The All on one and each and every page..

like writing a letter one letter/stroke (kanji) at a time

spontaneously ain't so easy to be doing over the length of time it takes to "pin" something otherwise than ONLY Self (ego) as LE did do

heck if I can't smell the book the dust on the top edge
or sneeze about acuse of the mites or see the worms' bores or taste the papaper... feel it up

don't like the bleached out everything these days... it become too antiseptic

IO wanna get into a piece entirely... feel her up..
unconditionally drop the "shoulds" and "coulds" and "woulds" and "maybes"

go into the image just as all of its parts summate into EVENT!~

I love the

( opps, pardon me I have to pee and
besides I forgot what the hell I was pointing to..

oh well




you know
there are damn few decent editors around these days...

I knew one once

but he fucking died! now
I spend my nights:

searching the stars
for intelligent life
-so little of it here

(this is not about content/meaning this is about presentation and faithfulness....

editing some one else's work especially after they are

a sacred trust

and requires
due diligence
re: every single detail

John B-R said...

I've worked in academia since I was, well, just say a long time, and in much of my work I've engaged university presses. Academic presses are in trouble because they sell very few copies - maybe a couple hundred if lucky - of most titles, and the vast majority of them go into academic libraries - which as you must know, have been hurting for some years now. I have no connection with this project but can reasonably surmise that SUP didn't consider that they'd profit with this title.

As to margins, it does seem a compromise could have been reached, in that all poems that would have fit w/in the page frame could have been situated "more like" where they appear on the typescripts, and those that wouldn't fit could have been moved leftward til they fit. Yes, that would have muddied the uniformity of the look of each opening, but it works pretty well in the Black Sparrow volume, Windows/Wall/Yards/Ways (shd be all caps?), which is a nice-looking volume.

But, decisions have to be made. If the ones Curtis and Robert made aren't satisfactory, a new edition will appear eventually, it's how academic publishing works.

I for one am grateful for this edition, even tho I can't and have no desire to counter a thing Steven says. So thanks to Messrs Faville and Grenier.

But I must add that my favorite part of this ed. by FAR is the part at the end which reproduces the typescripts, with their holograph etc corrections, etc.

It seems to me that a digital archive of these that could be used next to these print volumes would certainly help me (and since I'm kinda an average guy, perhaps others) read this volume, and really see all or at least a lot of what there is to see. Curtis, is there any possibility of such an archive?

Michael Carr said...

Hi Curtis Faville:

Thank you for your response, and what you say makes some sense, but it seems clearly a different editorial proposition than that of making sure "the original designs and settings are not lost". There is a distinct difference between how the editor thinks the author would have wanted a polished published version of the poem to appear (even based perhaps on stated author preferences), and representing what the original setting was. From the later point of view it seems hard to understand that his poems couldn't be reproduced, in whatever manner they were typed, to "fit nicely on the page" provided a page of the proper width for reproduction; whereas from the former position that seems plausible -- and in which case "fitting nicely" will have very different implications, as you seem to understand it. If he ran out of space and finished a poem on the other side of the page, so be it -- if the spacing of the original is what you wish to replicate, thus was how it appeared. If you do not understand the contradiction in your own stated editorial policy, your statements here nevertheless make it very clear.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty difficult to have the funds to print a 4000 page collected works. Obviously Faville, Grenier, and Stanford Press had to make difficult choices in order to get out Eigner's work this year in as close to some authentic reproduction of his work as possible. Grenier and Faville have undoubtedly been thoughtful in working on this book, and I look forward to adding it to my shelves, as flawed as it may seem to so many.

The reason I write, however, is to point out the simple notion that if you can get it done better or can organize to get it done better, do it. This new edition does not preclude your efforts to do it better.

It must be pretty terrible for those who put so many hours into the project to be, well, crapped on, for lack of a better phrase. To somehow malign such an effort by associating it with right wing corporatist practices is shameful. Any project such as this one requires a long period of dedication some would characterize as mokinsh or slavish or hermetic.

Resources define the limits of possibilities so if anyone here is frustrated enough about the limits to resources for such a project, get out there and organize and raise the resources. Stop throwing into the fiery pit of disdain the good people who have yoked themselves to a love of poetry for nothing else but that love.

Ed Baker said...

somehow puter put this in wrong box so here it is again. Direct from The Horses Mouth

Larry Eigner
Letter to Ina Forster

Steven Fama said...

Hi Patrick,

Your suggestion to do it better myself is a legitimate response.
Better yet -- and Curtis Faville I think did say or imply it here in one of his comments -- might be something along the lines of "shut up and enjoy the poems."

I hear and see both of those things. Maybe I can learn to pretend the margins are set two or whatever inches to the right (although that assumes that each and every Eigner poem was started at the same point on the page, which I don't think is I can).

I don't think my post equates anything here with "right-wing corporate practices" (although maybe you're not suggesting that I did).

My post came from an honest reaction after figuring out what it was that was bugging me about reading the poems, why there was something that didn't seem right about them. It turns out that the rigorous adherence to Eigner's page wasn't as rigorous as claimed. It might have helped to acknowledge it up front (instead of trumpeting repeatedly how carefully the poem-page would be replicated).

I paid my money for the books, took my chances, yes. And usually, I'm with you in the sense of if nothing good to say, keep it to myself. This disappointment was crushing to me though.

Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Eigner's work -- his practice and the poems that came from it -- is worth everybody's close attention, and celebration.

Ed Baker said...

out of that
Eigner letter to Ina Forster 1987 I linked y'all to who tend to skin the surfaces of..

on page 4

LE says about that left margin (and more):

"(...)as Olson had it) energy. When I took out a word after I'd
written it, rather than moving the next words on that line
leftwards, I'd leave the space open, not filled, I didn't
close it up, anyway at the beginning of a line, then
soon(?) I was indenting, not returning to the left margin
wholly or much at all, directly, per se (and the less of a
margin the less set and rigid a poem appeared, the more
easily it seemed, seems, to come off the page into speech,
into the head: so too, I've generally chosen not to put a
word flush with the word above it, even a few lines above
it, while I haven't held to such fine preferences for (...)"

the man was in "it" (life) (entirely) for the poetry


Gérald Purnelle said...

I'am a Belgian reader. Maybe I'd better write in French - my English is rather bad. But let's try. I discovered recently Eigner's poetry on the web. I was happy to read that his Collected Poems would be published. This was fot me a great opportunity to discover and explore this poetry. I've ordered and received them.
I must say that I'm disappointed too. I agree with Steven F. when he criticises the lefhand margin choices. As an poetry editor myself, I can understand Curtis F.'s point of view, but I think too that every poem could have had its own space and placement on the page, even when there are two or three poems in it.
But discovering the four volumes caused me a more serious deception. I think there are more grave porblems with this edition, and I have about it a few remarks and questions.

1. This edition contains no real bibliography of Eigner's books of poetry (it is only included in the biography). These books are not reproduced as such in the CP. Poems are not related to the original books they were published in; they are published in a pure chronological order. The notes tell nothing about this. Everything is made as if every poem had no history except a date and a manuscript; nothing about it is explained in the introduction. This edition takes out every trace of the editorial work and history of Eigner. And this was precisely what, as an Eigner's new reader, I wanted to learn about. For instance, we do not know which poems were formerly published (and where) and which ones are unpublished.
2. The editors have chosen to print the poems in the Courier font, in order to imitate the typewriter manuscripts, as they were typed, and is if they were re-typed. But much of these poems were published in previous books with more classical, graceful, readable and litterary fonts (I can see it on Google Books, in the book The world and its streets, places). Why didn't they choose such a font for the CP? Why was it so important to imitate typewriting? Did Eigner want it? Did he prefer to see his poems typewrited, rather than richly printed, in and as a book? An over that, courier font influences deely - and badly - the reading.
3. If the font had been no Courier but another one (non-equivalent), there would probably have been no or less problems of disposition on the page - see the books. So the choice of Courier is the source of more than one problem: readability, beauty, typography, etc.

I summarize my objections and disappointments: no bibliography; no trace of Eigner's books; no notes on the history of each poem; the choice of Courier.

Do you have any reaction?
Thanks a lot. Best wishes.

Steven Fama said...

Hello Gérald,

Thanks first for stopping by and for your comments.

The lack of bibliographic information in The Collected Eigner is frustrating to me as well. Particularly bothersome is not being able to tell which poems are previously unpublished.

The editors, in a single brief sentence in one of the essays in the books, refer readers to the most recent Eigner bibliography. But that bibliography was published more than 20 years ago and only covers publications through 1986 (almost 25 years ago -- there's been three book-length (two major) collections of Eigner work published since then, plus no doubt many magazine appearances). That bibliography is also difficult to find. In short, the editors' suggestion to consult a bibliography is entirely unsatisfactory.

With regard to the choice of courier font, see Grenier at Vol. I, page xii, and Faville at Vol IV, page xxxiii. They explain, best they can, why they did it.

Obviously, it bothers me immensely that the editors shift many poems' margins even as they stick to Courier (although it is at a reduced size compared to Eigner's) and promote their fidelity to Eigner's typescripts so "that the the original settings and designs are not lost." I'm sorry again, but their arrogance, or blindness, astounds me.

Ed Baker said...

one beautiful print-job by Noel Young SPARROW 13

Larry Eigner


one of my treasures more acause of the print/lay-out job Noel Young did for Black Sparrow Press

I bought it at City Lights when out there in 1974 AND PAID FULL PRICE FOR IT... 50 cents!

one of LE's pieces there-in has a note from him explaining that the piece evolved
"after seeing a PBS documentary on power development, especially in the Southwest."

hey, I am wondering, if like me Larry ALWAYS had the tv on... sort of a
"white noise" -like thing for me...

Curtis Faville said...

To Gerald Purnelle
& Steven:

It seems clear that M. Purnelle has not seen the edition, and is largely unfamiliar with the history of Eigner's work, as well as being unfamiliar with the tendencies and conditions of his aesthetic as known through the typescripts. Perhaps it would be best if he reserved comment and judgment until such time as he has reviewed our materials, and considered our critical comments in the edition.

Steven, your passionate partisanship is a welcome change from disinterested regard, but your accusations of "arrogance, blindness" seem extreme, even rude. The approach to typographical adaptations is not a simple matter--though it is often ignored by editors and publishers--and yet we attempted, openly and honestly, to address it with respect not just for the convenience of printing and book-making, but from the various competing contexts of Larry's individual typescripts, previous books, and the meaning and structure of his work as a whole (as well as, for instance, the impression of facing pages in the opened book--a consideration which is almost universally ignored these days). I previously asked you what your solution to the margin problem might be, and your response, though somewhat vague, left the impression that you would prefer the original holographic typescripts to any typographical adaptation--traditional or otherwise. Robert Grenier's expression of affection for Larry's original holographic typescripts does nothing to clarify this dilemma. Finally, it may be a matter of preference, though a complete "holographic" edition would never be possible, given the incomplete state of the archives extant.

I would welcome further discussion on these matters, but under conditions of civility and calm.

Steven Fama said...

Geez, Curtis,

Gérald writes directly that he had "ordered and received" the books. I dunno where you get the idea that he "has not seen the edition."

I'm the customer here, I paid full price, plus shipping and tax. That was a total of right around $170.00. I'm the one whose stomach dropped, and who (no lie) couldn't sleep, when I figured out shortly after receiving the books what the heck was different about the experience of reading Eigner's poetry in these books, and when I figured out that the shifting of the initial left margins had been done sub silentio -- with no explanation -- even while the edition professed fidelity to exactly how Eigner put things on the page. I take these things seriously, as a customer and a reader.

We're going to disagree on the margins. I remind that I pointed Gérald to the specific jump cites where the co-editors explained their thinking regarding the courier font. That was damn civil of me, I do believe.

I do not appreciate you confusing things by claiming I've only offered "somewhat vague" suggestions as to what should have been done, or the spurious claim that I've left the impression that I'd like the typescripts reproduced.

I've said it before see my previous comments here and elsewhere, and I'll say it again: set the poems individually, and give 'em some left side air. Look to early Black Sparrows, look to the well-made Elizabeth Press books, look to Tottel's, for example.

I regret that no response is offered here to the criticism, made both by Gérald and myself, that the books fail to indicate what poems are newly published. You can't believe how frustrating that is, given the aged state of the existing Eigner bibliography.

Ed Baker said...

y'all are missing something very fundamental

phun duh mental

quicich: who is it who is said to have said
"form IS function"


"imagination is the mother of us all"


" (...)

had Larry been able to shift actually move the paper (page) around physically in the carriage he may have painterly-like come up with what is of my
as ist is left to us via his horizontal/vertical alites needs be seen/respected

JUST AS IT WAS in each first public PUBLIC printing!

I mean uh-tell yuh, (as Olson said) "the public is private and
the public is where we behave" (or some such
"it sounds intelligent AND important" and

not at all am I interested more than a glancing peek at anything as done tody

,what do THEY" call it? Revisionist History


full moon
as always
tangentially pertinent

so: maybe I should drop the "as"?

conditionality has noh place in this attempt to "paint (on a piece of paper) an image using words... and pecking one letter/key at a time...

takes a Master's Stroke to do even a shitty piece!

Gérald Purnelle said...

To Curtis,

I apologize: yes I've received and seen, but not yet really read the books. In particular, I read only superficially the introduction, and not at all the appendice. Sorry. I understand that your font choice conforms to Eigner's aesthetics. For me, it remains that such typesettings are less readable and... aesthetic. As you notice, and as I said, I'm unfamiliar with Eigner's work: this edition is for me a good opportunity for discovering it.
But my remark about the lack of bibliography and poem's tracing remains: doesn't it make this edition an instrument for specialists, not a front door for new readers, what, precisely, a collected poems edition should be too?
Best regards, and despite questions and remarks, congratulations on your work.

Blog Archive