Monday, December 7, 2009

Announcing The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner - Stanford University Press - Jan 2010

Well, it's official!  Stanford University Press has formally announced the January 2010 publication of The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, which Robert Grenier and I co-edited. A labor of over seven years--which involved the tracking down of obscure publications, pouring over an almost limitless mass of typescripts (some in imprecise versions), the meticulous exact setting of over three thousand poems (to establish reliable texts) whose formal organizations on the page were unique for each poem, and finally the creation of an error-free camera-ready copy transmitted directly to the printer--the finished work will arrive in 4 volumes, totaling 1868 pages. The image above is of the front panel, spine and front flap of the dustwrapper of volume I, whose basic design idea was mine; the succeeding three volume jackets are variations on this first one.       

The image above is the rear panel and rear flap. The whole image can be viewed in expanded form--derived from its original PDF format spread--by clicking on the image below, assuming your computer can display it.


The effort to bring this behemoth into existence owes its impetus to Robert Grenier, who pre-visioned the collection two decades ago when he began to assist Larry in establishing accurate, edited copies of his work. As those who would know about Larry's work habits and limitations at his writing desk, the task of undertaking this huge job would have been impossible without Bob's initial effort, over time, to produce over a thousand finished edited typescripts in collaboration with Larry--which constituted the major contribution to our joint labors. 
The existing major Eigner archive collections at Kansas and Stanford were both compared with all other known versions of Eigner's work, and thanks are due to the respective staffs of those two institutions, The Green Library at Stanford, and the Kenneth Spencer Library at Lawrence, Kansas. 
The project was supported by Larry's Brother (and copyright holder for the Estate) Richard Eigner, who was responsible for bringing Larry to Berkeley from the family home in Swampscott, Massachusetts in 1978; the whole project could not have been completed without his help and encouragement. The Collected Poems is a tribute to the affection and care which characterized the Eigner family's regard for Larry, throughout his life, and it's an inspiration, as well, to those afflicted with disabilities--as to us all!--that through understanding, intellectual and emotional nourishment, they can achieve great things.    
For my own part, I'm proud to have been able to contribute my energies and time. It was an adventure! You can't truly know the work of a great writer until you copy-read him for accuracy and content. Our joint hope is that a wider readership will finally be able to share our enthusiasm and wonder at Larry Eigner's poetry, presented for the first time in its entirety. 
Stanford University Press, which stood by us despite its present constricted financial standing, deserves everyone's thanks. The Collected Eigner, like the Press's previous five-volume edition of the work of Robinson Jeffers, is a tribute to its commitment to preserving and showcasing significant literary work, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Our editor at Stanford, Norris Pope, was a true prince, throughout our long relationship, extending deadlines, and accommodating our need for more textual space. I can't thank him enough for his generosity, decency, and steadying hand.      
For those who may wish to pre-order their copy of the 4-volume set, you may go directly here ( to Stanford University Press online. At $150 per set, it's a steal!  


Steven Fama said...

Did I miss the part where regular readers of the Compass Rose Blog will receive a free copy?!!!


I do note that the January date is delayed a month from the original listing of December, but if you say January I trust you will make it happen.

I have ordered the set direct from Stanfurd. California residents take note: including tax and shipping its really $170, not $150.

Curtis, I understand your enthusiasm, and I agree it is a good value, but a "steal" it most assuredly it is NOT.

The good folks at Stanfurd (they use a jobber on-line for sales) might want to know that when it comes to new books, especially those for which I've shelled out close to two hundred books, I have no tolerance for mucked up dust jackets, banged up corners, smudged fore-edges and other such "problems." Curtis, please tell 'em -- pack the dang things like they should.

And once again: congratultions. This is epic-scale work.

And also, I had no idea that Grenier, in situ (w/ Eigner all the time?), over what, years, settled -- is that the right word -- more than 1,000 poems. Is the Eigner/Grenier collaboration described in any detail in the accompanying text?

Congratulations again, this time because it (the dj)looks great. I hope, however, that: (1) the "calligraphy / typewriters" combo is taken, just like it looks, directly from an Eigner poem, and (2) that the blurbs aren't repeated on all four volumes. (I bet I'm right about number 1, and that alas the blurbs go everywhere.)

Curtis Faville said...


To answer your questions--

No, no free copies to casual readers of this blog.

The one month delay was due to a second round of corrections from the page proofs. For an 1800 page text, this is hardly unexpected. After 7 years, one month delay means nothing.

You undoubtedly know what academic texts cost these days. Textbooks typically run between $65-175 a single copy. The "true" retail price for the Eigner would almost certainly be about $200-325 based on current academic press criteria. Compare any other collected poems project of similar dimensions.

We have nothing to do with distribution. I think Stanford hires out (with University of Chicago Press) a wholesale distribution outfit somewhere--not locally.

The jacket design poem was included--as you will discover--at Larry's own suggestion.

The pleasure of the text: These volumes will be required reading for any lover of modern poetry. They will stand beside the collected editions of this generation: Olson, Creeley, Blackburn, Levertov, Dorn, Duncan, Spicer, Snyder, Whalen, Jonathan Williams, etc.

Ed Baker said...

I thought that I was on their pre-order list
but narry as of yet a word.

Is SPARROW 13 includeded?

LE's shape


will now tap into
December Social Security check
for this setr

though I have just about all of Larry's "stuf" as originally produced...

will have to move Bunting and Bronk to another shelf so's this set can snug up to the others on one side and to my Cid Corman "stash" on the other...

thanks for the bullitin

will clue John M and some others he and they will be ticled be tickled

Curtis Faville said...


I may be dreaming it all.

Wake me up. I want to read the book too!

Steven Fama said...

Dear Curtis,

Man, I guess jokes (my crack about free copies, for example) don't come through that well on the internet, or to you?

I've ordered the set; you don't need to remind me of the pleasures the texts will bring.

I did ask a question -- and it's one that you didn't answer -- about Eigner, Grenier, and the poems. I now know they were housemates, for years. In settling the poems, to what degree, if at all, did editor Grenier act as Pound did with Eliot and The Waste Land? Are the parameters of the editorial interaction discussed in the editorial material within the four volumes?

Curtis Faville said...


This is an interesting question, with two possible answers.

1) Grenier had no interest in "editing" Larry's work in the sense that Pound did Eliot's Waste Land. He only performed the function of recording what Larry intended, accurately. You can take that to the bank.

2) Did Grenier--as a result of co-habiting with Larry as his caretaker for a decade--"influence" Larry's writing? You bet! I'm not the only one to note Larry's tendency towards abbreviation in the last decade and a half of his writing life; it's commonly thought that Bob is the reason.

Footnote: Larry influenced Bob. Did Grenier go on to the "scrawl" works in direct response to his appreciation of Larry's "calligraphic" approach to the page? I think that's the next big story to be told.

Steven Fama said...

Thanks Curtis. Your answers ## 1 and 2 are important, and interesting. I hope the editorial material in the four volumes gets into it. I think the questions are natural, given the circumstances.

There was "of course" (I say that as if I knew this (I didn't) at any point before researching it last night) a third housemate with Eigner and Grenier -- Kathleen Frumkin. I'd hypothesize, without knowing anything more, that she too was a major "influence" on Eigner, and vice-versa too. Whether any of that comes out in anybody's poems, I don't know. But if you share a home with somebody, influence can hardly be avoided.

And a dang interesting footnote you provide too. Surely, the process and fun of reading / figuring out Eigner's hand-writing (I've puzzled out some very brief words he'd inscribed in books) put thoughts into anyone's head about the the advantages and disadvantages of letters/words that are more raggedly written....

Steven Fama said...

Or actually -- and here biography intersects with poetics, maybe -- was there a fourth person in the house? At least one web site mentions, "In about 1978 Larry had recently moved to Berkeley and lived with Bob and Amy Grenier and Kathleen Frumkin." The Stanfurd dust-jacket rear flap makes no mention of "Amy Grenier," just Robert and Kathleen....

Anonymous said...

was looking in the work

LE's last book

for (maybe) a mention of
Kathleen Frumkin

And got lost in the "magic" again..

prat-tell is Bob's 'afterword'

(dig it: afterword NOT afterward


is it will be in cluded... just as it is here-in?

only cost me $5 shipping/handling... an advantage not living (now) in CA one, anyway.

J said...

Looking forward to the scans in the future (and maybe from Jeffers' Steinford press collection as well?? cool).

Curtis Faville said...


The Stanford Jeffers has been out for years.

I should think you could probably find images of it on any of several book websites.

It's five volumes. A bigger project, really, than the Eigner, by far.

jh said...

i'll at least recommend that our library purchase a copy


Ed Baker said...

y'all talking about the Jeffers/Kuster love letters?



what IS in the water that they drink at Stanford...anyway!

Kirby Olson said...

Congratulations. I'll recommend too that our library gets a copy. It must feel good to have it all done!

Jennifer Bartlett said...

Dear Curtis,

Please believe I write this will all due respect. I am thrilled that you have been dedicated to such an important labor or love. Yet, I am upset that you continue to use terms such as those 'afflicted' with disabilities. Neither I, not my friends who are equally disabled as Eigner was, consider ourseles afflicted. The primary difficulty in living with a disability remains society's attitude and archetectural problems MORE THAN the disability itself. I do not see disability as an affliction, just as I would not describe race nor sexuality as such.

Curtis Faville said...


I think we may be arguing about the connotations of words, to some degree. From your perspective, any word which suggests an objectification of limitation or a condescending marker is problematic.

Larry did mourn his inability to do all the things his curtailment prevented him from doing. He was clear about that. What name would you give to this emotion?

There is, of course, another way of looking at fate: As some kind of predestination, or "Eastern" acceptance of what one IS, sans any kind of complaint or frustration--just the tacit acknowledgment of what's given.

Each person must come to terms with the hand they've been dealt: What names we give to that process, may differ from person to person. Language is important: What we call something matters to a considerable degree. Insisting on a certain respect, through language, may help in addressing the personal issues, for "disabled" as well as "normal" (who's normal?) people.

Disability may be, then, just a degree of difference. I think, with Larry, that difference was both an affliction, and in some sense a blessing. There is a tendency to imagine that his poetry is the consequence of his condition, but that's illogical: He would almost certainly have been involved in literature, in some way, even if he'd become, like his brothers--in the family tradition--a professional of some kind. But there IS a quality in his meditative "calm" and weird apprehension of reality that does seem to come from an enforced passivity. Would that/could that have occurred under different stimuli? Would Larry have written different poems if he had played baseball and soccer, for instance? Well, he'd have been a different person, then.

We could argue about the vibrations which such a word as "passivity" implies, but it's still useful in describing a real quality in his work.

Anyway, thanks for the comment--always useful.

Jennifer Bartlett said...


Thank you so much for talking. I have emailed you my work on Eigner thus far. I think most of what you say about Eigner (above) is right on. The point that I am trying to make is that disability is more problematic because of society than the actual body.

I would ask you, don't you think that Eigner's 'suffering' (I hate that word) derived as much from the fact that he lived in an environment where nothing was wheelchair accessible? Do you think he was bothered by the fact that people looked down on him and brought his mental abilities into question? I refuse to accept to the word afflicted as, by your own explianation, we are ALL afflicted with bodily problems, Eigner's were just more complicated.

You haven't yet explored the fact that SOCIETY is deeply, deeply flawed in it's attitude toward disability. I wonder how you would respond to this?

Curtis Faville said...

Yes, that's quite true. I once had a conversation with Marvin Bell, at Iowa. I asked him what he thought of Larry's work, and he said something like, "well, yeah, okay, it's alright, but you do know, don't you, the condition from which it springs?" "Yes." "Well, that's the reason." (By which he meant, the explanation for its difference--i.e., its limitation.) In other words, he dismissed the work as being the manifestation of a failure of some kind deriving from disability. From his perspective, there had to be a reason for the difference in the work, and that reason was he was abnormal, limited, cut off from experienece, or prevented from experiencing and knowing the truth that would have permitted him to write in a way that Bell approved of.

I didn't argue with Marvin, but I disagreed. On the simplest terms, I was drawn to qualities in the work, which had nothing to do with their author's disability--because I had originally become interested in it before I knew about his condition--though his eccentric vision was clearly related in some way that I couldn't define, to the condition of his life.

Eigner, of all the poets I know of who write from such a condition, suffered least from the prejudice against physical difference. He was widely published, and had/has a large audience. Editors and publishers tended to see his work in terms that suited their own preoccupations, and their sense of his work--and this was colored by their view of his condition.

Eigner's work transcends his condition, but it is what it is. One must be aware and unaware of the fact of his biography. You read the work enough, and that sense of difference--that part that matters in the search/journey/labor of aesthetic adventure--becomes less and less important. You're just singing or seeing or following with/through another mind.

Jennifer Bartlett said...

Thank you Curtis. You clearly do 'get' it. I realized that I never answered your question about 'afflicted.' I wonder if Eigner used that term to describe himself? I would simply say - people with CP or people with a disability. I don't see the use in putting a negetive spin on it.