Ordinarily I find Ron Silliman’s blog link-rich and intellectually entertaining. But his latest post on the work of Larry Eigner reads like a pastiche of avant-garde poetic theory. Here’s the particular passage that stuck in my craw:
“Eigner really was a philosopher of consciousness who used poetry almost architecturally to sculpt the most marvelous observations of the particular, even when he chose the simplest categorical terms to plot this out. There is one poem in this relatively slender volume that is perhaps the apotheosis of this approach to the poem. Like most of Eigner’s works, it has no title other than the date of its composition, ‘September 24 78’:
Five nouns, no waiting.”
Silliman goes on to “analyze” this piece of writing with all the straight-faced ingenuity that others might devote to a thorny passage in Dante’s Inferno. His commentary is simply ludicrous.
Worse, it doesn’t serve Eigner well, because anyone reading it without knowing Eigner will almost certainly not look for his work — and that’s too bad. Eigner at his best is luminous, energetic, involving, and transparent (in Jean Follain’s sense of the word). He certainly doesn’t deserve to have readers dissuaded from his work by one of his friends.