Michael Kelleher

Articulate beyond walls (PoemTalk #97)

Larry Eigner, 'Again dawn,' 'a temporary language,' and 'unyielding rock'

Larry Eigner, photograph dated May 1959 (from the Poetry magazine archive).


Michael Kelleher, Daniel Bergmann, and Ron Silliman joined Al Filreis for a discussion of three poems by Larry Eigner. The first, “Again dawn,” was written in November 1959; the second, “A temporary language,” was composed on September 1 and 2 in 1970; and the third, “Unyielding / rock,” was written on May 31, 1971.

Dear Tyrone Williams

May 11, 2013

Dear Tyrone,

Adventures of Pi made me think a lot about Detroit.

As you know, I was born in the Motor City. I am child of the auto industry. My grandfather worked as a draughtsman for American Motors. My mother worked in Lee Iacocca’s secretarial pool at Ford. My father worked at Ford, too, in the leasing division. I remember him bringing home these shiny adhesive Mustang logos when I was a boy. I stuck one to the shell of my pet turtle. 

We moved to California in 1971.

Dear Mikhail Epstein

March 28, 2013

Dear Mikhail Epstein,

When I first pulled PreDictionary from the shelf, I glanced at your name and skimmed your bio. My mind registered the following facts: your first name was Mikhail; you had come from Russia; you taught at Emory University. Your last name did not register. I started reading the book.

Dear Garrett Caples

June 30, 2013

Dear Garrett Caples,

I wonder what the statute of limitations is for publicly responding to a book. Having just finished Complications, I looked at the copyright date and realized it was published in 2007. Mainstream book reviews run within a few weeks or months of the publication. Others usually within a year. Poetry seems to operate on an altogether different timeline, with reviews coming out within, say, two to three years of a book’s publication.

Dear Diane Wald

March 13, 2013

Dear Diane Wald,

Two days ago I received a large box in the mail. It looked as if it had been bounced around in a washing machine for several days. Two corners were crushed. It survived the journey from Pennsylvania to Connecticut thanks to yards of clear packing tape wrapped around it. There were thirty-five books of poetry inside, one of them yours. 

Dear Danielle Pafunda

April 22, 2013

Dear Danielle Pafunda,

After reading the first few “Mommy” poems in Manhater, I put the book down. Partly, this was because they made me feel creepy, but mostly it was because I felt compelled to look you up on Facebook. I am not sure what I wanted to find out that wasn’t written in your bio, but I looked you up anyway. 

Dear Andrew Levy

June 6, 2013

Dear Andrew Levy,

In my copy of Nothing Is in Here, on page one, a mark shaped like an upright rectangle with the top left corner shorn off at a steep angle sits between the words in the phrase “vanilla middle.” It looks as though it could be an inkblot. I found myself wondering if this stray mark had meaning, sitting as it did in the middle of the phrase “vanilla middle.” But why would the “vanilla” middle be black?

I made a mental note to return to the mark once I’d finished the book.

Dear Aaron Shurin

April 16, 2013

Dear Aaron Shurin,

I started reading Citizen on a train from Grand Central Station to New Haven last Friday. I’d had a meeting in the city in the morning. Afterwards I met my friend Paul for lunch. I caught the 1:34 train. It was raining. On the way into the city, I finished reading C, a novel by Tom McCarthy. I had figured this would happen, so I brought your book for the ride home.

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