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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Living Language

Larry Eigner, an American poet
associated with the Language poets,
had severe cerebral palsy
and could not live independently,
         and for his first fifty years
resided with his mother
         and father.

Eigner steered clear
cleansed of the idea of persona,
submitted his poetry to be edited
by another poet, who was direct
                  and challenging, confessing
he smoke hashish and fucked
         a good many women:

Did Eigner think the physicality
of moving gave experience
         more weight?

The palsy made writing
                  by hand difficult,
so he used a typewriter, a bar mitzvah
         gift. He connected with poetry
and through other poets;
in their letters to each other
         he rarely

used the word I
or mentioned his disability; and I
wonder whether it was because when
         the page was his landscape
he could walk, talk and fuck
         with the best of them
with puzzlement and honesty;

or whether it was
sometime around twenty,
he stopped writing,
         longing to explore poetry
beyond the traditions his mother
         had taught, recalling a local
poet in high school

who supposed blank verse was only
         for a master. In college, when he
asked a professor what free verse
meant, he said it was just
                  cut-up prose.

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