This poet of the ordinary lived an extraordinary life, as if the physical
challenges he faced since birth were spun by poetic license into mental
acrobatics. Larry Eigner is hero of our times. His will to
think was unsuppressible. It was no ordinary privilege to have known
him. I can't think of anyone I admired more.
There is no writing I know as vivid as Larry Eigner's. He's invented,
for poetry, something equivalent to three-dimensional photography: his
works present a series of perceptions etched deep into the mind, where
the mind is charted on a page and the page becomes a model of the thinking
field. Perception and thought (words and things) are completely intertwined
in Eigner's work, which brings to a visionary crescendo the exploration
of the ordinary — the transient flickerings of the everyday that otherwise
pass more unnoticed than regarded, more dismissed than revered. In
Eigner's poems, one "fragment" is rivetted to the next, so that one becomes,
in reading this work, likewise riveted by the uncanny democracy of details,
where attention is focussed unhesitatingly on each particular with equal
weight, equal exhilaration. This is a poetics of "noticing things,"
where, as Eigner writes, "nothing is too dull" with "material (things,
words) more and more dense around you." But equally, Eigner's is
a poetics of coincidence, where "serendipity" (contingency) takes its rightful
place as animating spirit, displacing the anthropocentric sentimentality
of much of the verse of our time.
"THE ONLY WORLD WE'VE GOT"
Anything on Its Side is placed, like
a volume in a tank of water, with utter
gravity against the next moment that occurs
in what is called time but for Eigner is always
spaced, for example on a page. What
would it be to be grounded, to know
the ground under you by the weight
it pushes back with? "Every atom of me
. . . across distances." No awful trembling
unto undecidability, everything founded in
its site, cleaves to what there is, to
what is there. "To be is involved
such words that hold / times in the mind":
a way, still, that a poem can enact its
own presence, with full measure of the
necessary determination to move from
anything to that which juts against it,
a conviction that life is made of (of)
just such leaps, the contingency of an eye
(aye, I) 'gainst a field of "r/oars" ("suddenly
a day"). Something like deep
focus, as if the poems had become
an organ, the sky bellows. Step by
step, slowly turning. Yet there is no
opening onto image here, no mime of
a rehearsal of a scene. Eigner's depth-of-
field charges each page to hold its own,
"to have things whole". "to see / dark
the / invisible". Perception all right,
but not sun-drenched barns: "fishmongers",
"pigment", "air". If there's
narrative, it's narrative unhinged
of causal nexus, logical spools. Each
line rivets its moment & moves on, like
angels on the head of a quill pin, nor
looks ahead nor back, but "bangs" indissoluble
at precise splice ("each fief") that
bodies the moment from one to next. "to
negotiate the ocean drop by drop
if there were time". In adjacency
is act-uality: "you thought it was
as it is". Nuggets of sound carving
space. "Motion" "motor" "process"
"winds" "bells" "floating" "echoing"
"coursing" "falling" "roaming" "wading"
"spilling" "flying" "dazzling" "burning"
"unflagging" "blows" "stirs" "curves"
"spirals" "stagger" "dives" "slips"
"slicks" "shakes" "hums" "simmers"
"twist" "float" "flap" "dangle" "glitter"
"subside": "imagine the extent" (a
geometry of ties that blind in music,
"the great sea orchestrated with men"--
"what's unseen" "what sound for our
ears"). What is "displaced" at each
juncture is the plenitude of eyes seeing
beyond sight, the replenishment of
occlusion's hold, storehouse of an
interior horizon s(t)olid as emplacement.
"What you / see you / settle / on"--
settlement, homestead in the moment's
whole, "such words that hold" nor need
an other embrace. "your eyes open" "we
see something to say or / listen to".
Imagine the extent.