Larry Eigner Papers
Scope and Content
Incoming and outgoing correspondence of Larry Eigner and acquaintances including David and Maria Gitin, George Bowering, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Vincent Ferrini, Denise Levertov and Gael Turnbull. Also includes poetry, literary magazines and an audio cassette. Additions received periodically. Related collections include George Butterick Papers, William K. Costley Papers, Vincent Ferrini Papers, James Koller Papers, Charles Olson Research Collection, James Weil Papers.
The collection is open and available for research.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from the owner(s) of the copyright.
Laurence (Larry) Eigner was a prominent American writer who authored more than 75 books and broadsides over the span of 58 years. He was born with cerebral palsy on August 7, 1927 to parents Israel and Bessie. Eigner lived most of his life—that is, his first 50 years—in his parents’ Swampscott, Massachusetts home. Though he was wheelchair-bound from birth, this did not hinder him from becoming a prolific writer. Indeed, he is known for having shared and lived a social “life in letters” through his regular correspondence with friends, his publishers, other contemporary writers, and his fans.
Eigner’s career was greatly encouraged by the 1940 Royal manual typewriter he received for his 13th birthday. He would often sit on the glass-enclosed front porch of his home, typewriter at the ready, using his thumb and right index finger to record his observations, experiences, and thoughts about the outside world. This porch was his makeshift office, where he committed himself to writing something—an essay, a review, a letter, or a poem—on a daily basis. His mother played a prominent role in his life, as she insisted that he receive a proper education by first tutoring him at home. Eigner was later homeschooled by his Swampscott High School teachers and also completed seven correspondence courses through the University of Chicago.
Though he did not attend North Carolina’s Black Mountain College himself, Eigner is known for his affiliation with the Black Mountain poets. Esteemed alumnus Robert Creeley published Eigner’s first book, From the Sustaining Air in 1953. Throughout the years his work also appeared in the Black Mountain Review as well as other publications including Poetry, The Paris Review, Chicago Review, Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews’ L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and Origin.
Eigner’s work relies on images, usually established with a minimal number of words, much like the style of William Carlos Williams. Though his poems are often abuzz with enthusiasm about everyday activities, they are also laden with a bittersweet pining about life’s transitory nature. In contrast to his earlier work, Eigner’s later pieces are shorter and attest to the progression and increasing mastery of his poetic style.
ON MY EYES (Jargon Press, 1960) was Eigner’s first major collection of poems. His books following another time in fragments (Fulcrum Press, 1967) were mostly published by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press and James Weil’s The Elizabeth Press. His non-poetic publications include the short story / prose collections Clouding (1968), Farther North (1969), and Country/Harbor/Quiet/Act/Around (1978). Eigner’s work has also been included in anthologies such as The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 (1960), America: A Prophecy (1973), and A Gist of Origins (1975) among others.
He was one of the winners of the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award in 1983 for his book, WATERS / PLACES / A TIME (1981). His writing career was also celebrated with readings by fellow poets and friends at the University of California Art Museum in 1993.
Eigner moved to Berkeley, California, in the summer of 1978, after the death of his father. He became a noticeable figure in the area’s poetry scene by providing numerous readings and hosting many visitors in his home. Eigner remained in Berkeley until his own death (due to pneumonia-related complications) on February 3, 1996. In 2010, Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, a four-volume set that includes the more than 3,070 poems written throughout his life.
4.9 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Born in 1927 in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Laurence (Larry) Eigner was a prominent American writer who authored more than 75 books of poetry as well as literary broadsides. He was born with cerebral palsy on August 7, 1927 to parents Israel and Bessie. Eigner lived most of his life—that is, his first 50 years—in his parents’ Swampscott, Massachusetts home. Though he was wheelchair-bound from birth, this did not hinder him from becoming a prolific writer. Indeed, he is known for having shared and lived a social “life in letters” through his regular correspondence with friends, his publishers, other contemporary writers, including Charles Olson, and his fans. The collection includes incoming and outgoing correspondence of Larry Eigner and his acquaintances including David and Maria Gitin, George Bowering, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Vincent Ferrini, Denise Levertov and Gael Turnbull.
Two collections have been integrated into one and condensed into two boxes. Box one includes outgoing correspondence sent by Larry Eigner primarily to David and Maria Gitin including 67 letters (1970-1979) which address, but not exclusively, Eigner's poetry, poems from #76 to 1068 (1967-1978; series is incomplete; numbered poems included in letters were condensed with other numbered poems for organization), assorted papers and poems from correspondence without date or number, one notebook, mimeographed TS of a play entitled "The Reception" with occasional notes by Eigner, several literary magazines, 3 poems by David Gitin annotated by Eigner. Box two includes letters received by Larry Eigner from numerous correspondents, principally (more than 10 letters each) George Bowering, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Vincent Ferrini, Denise Levertov, and Gael Turnbull. Box two also includes an audiocassette of Larry Eigner reading a selection of his poems (1974).
Series I was purchased in October 1991. Series II was a gift/purchase from Eigner in 1974/1975. Later addition received from Richard Eigner.
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- Larry Eigner Papers
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- 1997 September
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