Michael Davidson‘s keynote address at the NPF’s 2000 summer conference on North American Poetry in the 1960s, “Missing Larry,” was first published in Sagetrieb 18.1, and later as part of his 2008 book Concerto for the Left Hand. The essay is also available online, courtesy the Museum of American Poetics (link).
“Missing Larry” has become a central document for readers of Eigner’s work — and an important contribution to the field of disability studies. The essay deals in part with Eigner’s still-unpublished fascicle Dance, put together in response to Charles Olson’s Plan for a Curriculum of the Soul. The Dance poems include a long one written in response to Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (see vol. 4 of Eigner’s Collected Poems, pg. 1612). Writes Davidson:
Eigner thought of titling his series “Gyre / (scope) / loop the / loop,” as if to condense the metaphors of stability (gyroscope), perception (“scope”), historical cyclicity (Yeats’ gyres) and vertiginous movement (“loop the / loop”) in one figure. It is an ideogram that merges Eigner’s primary concerns with perception and place, but sets them against the backdrop of historical vertigo, the rightward shifting margin marking the stumbling movement of movements under duress.
The Shoah poem largely concerns a boy — now a man — who returns with Lanzmann to the river in Poland where he was once forced to sing while running with chains around his ankles. Notes Davidson:
The incredulous testimony of survival (“I can’t believe I’m here”) is measured against an act of physical awkwardness that resembles a dance of death, not unlike the coffle songs and shuffle dances developed by black slaves in the antebellum South.
And he adds:
Such powerful mergings of physical grace with carceral control turns “Dance” into a personal signature for Eigner’s proprioceptive position.
The Sagetrieb issue with Davidson’s essay features an Eigner typescript on the cover, an otherwise-unpublished fragment that may have been the beginning of a prose note … or perhaps a poem. A diplomatic transcript appeared on the issue’s first page. Click on the images below for larger views:
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