Eigner is one of the lesser known Black Mountain poets, although he was influential among the next generation's Language poets. Highlighting Eigner's influence on the "Language School" of poetry, his work often appeared in the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and was featured on the front page of its inaugural issue in February 1978.
In Ron Silliman's introduction to his anthology of Language Poetry, In the American Tree (Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation,1986)---dedicated to Eigner--- Silliman identifies this poet as one who has ‘transcended the problematic constraints’ of Olson's speech-based projectivist poetics. Eigner has himself pointed out that his poetry originates in ‘thinking’ rather than speech.
During his lifetime, Eigner wrote dozens of books and published poems in more than 100 magazines and collections. Charles Bukowski once called him the "greatest living poet."
Life and work
Palsied from hard birth, Eigner grew up in Swampscott, Massachusetts. His parents believed that he was incapable of language until he taught himself to use a typewriter in his teens. As he matured into an artist, Eigner overcame many physical obstacles and limitations to achieve a mastery over the material text, producing his typescripts on a 1940 Royal manual typewriter using only his right index finger and thumb.
Perhaps the best realization to date of the idea of "composition by field" proposed by Charles Olson in his landmark essay "Projective Verse," the physical act of writing took tremendous effort from Eigner.
Larry Eigner authored more than 40 books, among them From the Sustaining of Air (1953), Another Time in Fragments (1967), Country/Harbor/Quiet/Act/Around-selected prose (1978), and Waters/Places/a Time (1983). His work appeared in well over a hundred magazines and collections, most notably Origin, The Black Mountain Review, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and in Don Allen's anthology The New American Poetry. In 2010, Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner, Volumes 1–4 (Vol. I: 1937–1958; Vol. II: 1958–1966; Vol. III: 1966–1978; Vol. IV: 1978–1995). The four volumes were edited by Robert Grenier and Curtis Faville.
Larry Eigner died from pneumonia and other complications on February 3, 1996.