........remembering my first visit to Larry's house, a five hour
wonderful one-on-one visit, discussing everything, reading many
things, and having dinner (his entourage of roommates so quiet
as to be invisible) -- I was immediately struck by the sight of
the front room with many windows, walls bulging from the gaggle of
boxes containing writings and I soon learned that Larry would know,
in all the stacks, where to find one small poem. "There, underneath, see the
grey book, it's underneath the blue book..no, no....there!" We later read
together from rumpled pages of William Carlos Williams, favorite lines.
Larry's books, like the Velvet Rabbit, were worn down until all the beauty
is gone, ready for the rag bag, but a discerning eye saw only the holiness of
Larry was open to life's experiences, with a "why not" directness. He
in with careful attention everything he could get his hands on, and his ears
into - the words AND the music, with interest, sometimes with awe - art
and life as one, as connected, no demarcation points. Life, to be born and die
in short time, but why not put that aside and absorb everything whether
there is any reason to or not. Larry did. Life's constant feeding left little, if
any time, for "show" or pretense, and that kind of purity can allow the luxury
of "awe" (or listening) without the clutter of those things anointed by "the
others"," those things which "others" segregate, name, declare OKAY. What
was important was important. On Larry's terms. His own fame never
tampered with his ingenuous quality.
Ways Larry experienced the world included looking out the window,
discussing literature, reading, watching movies and listening to the radio.
RADIO! KALW! A favorite station, kind of quirky and full of esoteric
information, so unpretentious that much like Larry's interview with Jack
Foley, KPFA, it was as if they didn't need a radio, the voices just came into
the room on their own.
Perhaps on rare occasions, depending on whether your in 1940 or 1996,
there may have been times (hard to imagine Larry ever being ignored!)
when Larry among strangers became an "object" - the wheel chair in the
room. I'm sure, in such event, Larry would have used the time well, used his
'moment of invisibility' to listen, eavesdrop even! You see more, you hear
more. And, if you are a writer, you TELL! And if you are Larry you don't just
tell in writing! Larry had MUCH to say, his mind racing constantly. As an
audience himself (participator, sometimes speaking up and joining in!) to
other artists, I can say what a delightful listener he is, but that is not to say
that he was not foremost, a great talker!!!!!!
More personally: Knowing, in 1986, I was new to the poetry world after
some years in music, and knowing full well I wasn't a fan of the language
poets, Larry couldn't wait to ask me the first time a Language poet spoke in
Jack Foley's Series (Cafe Milano) Larry called loudly and clearly, across the
room, "JESSE, HOW DID YOU LIKE THE LANGUAGE POET?" (he
grinned!), knowing all the while, it would not be my favorite cup of tea!
And another example of his wry wit. I was complaining about having
too much stuff (after 30 years!!! boxes and boxes of writings, music
manuscripts) --- he said, smiling "They won't put you in jail for it, will they,
Jesse?" It kept me sane.
Larry's physical surrounding were many times small, virtually housebound
during some periods, looking out the window as he tells us, but he made it
so the world was wherever HE was, and the thing to do then is, zero in on
the essence, as in his poetry.
In his direct way, Larry said, "I went to the library," and then very
and seemingly surprised: "they had my books on the shelf!" Coming perhaps
from his putting possessions (even his own books) in perspective. He was
free of attachment to "things" - oh, he cared about his poems and loved books
to pieces (literally), his and every book he could get his hands on, but wisely,
Larry was always "somewhere else" and not tied to possensions. - If he loved
a poet, he wanted his friends to know the work, would loan out his favorites,
including Hart Crane and William Carlos Williams. "Here, take this home
with you, Jesse." Within the pages, a letter from Allen Ginsberg, no
reflection that he was careless of his friend and associate of many years, but
that Larry was somewhere else, living in the moment.
Larry was intently curious about many things, perhaps everything. He
would not be bored! He said to Jack Foley on KPFA, "because I am
interested in everything, I can't be bored." Special. Yes. Special on many
levels a few might overlook. More real, more direct and more pure than
most (reflected in his writings).....some nuances however direct, in the very
directness, are not easily caught, light as butterflies, with subtle colors; a
few may while seeing the same purity, directness and truth in his poetry,
miss the genius of his modesty (it didn't have to be identified, people felt
good to be around him, many friends) perhaps they did sense he was
comfortably in tune, in and out of the beat, his person, his soul, unafraid and
uncluttered. If you were there, in his inclusive world, a magic world of
words, where Larry, mercurial as a Gemini, although Leo, is 'someplace else'
when unimportant trappings of life come plodding in, you may feel the same
LETTER TO LARRY EIGNER written the night after 5-hour one-on-one
visit with Larry at his giant house on McGee Street, June 12, 1990.
not on the long
sun slowing steps
and Old Grove
or on the otherhand,
where am I?
where is Larry?
where is the phone?
the house with the ramp
a lazy old fashioned?
Larry's house McGee. Oh.
History: two women
side by side were the women?
old Sea Captain
one miss tress old history
"Hi, Lar!" Rick rescues me
to coolness familiar
not just me?
in living room
"Where is radio schedule? he asked, first!
Peering, Larry wheels in
gaggle of boxes
and swarms of stacks bibliographed
in living every minute like Joel (mine!)
the name the same middle
and brain same (memories,
as exploring reminders.......
"That book! time now!
not in one second now!
(doesn't Jesse understand?
page 6 ? Wiliams?
(pages run into
and other pages run into)
life is said accordingly
poets Larry various
all in juxtaposed
words that's everything?
about death? life is
(who, when, what,
where we die')
"so what if mankind dies"
READ! (quick) me? You?
I READ YOU READ NOT THAT DIFFERENT
as Ginsberg and Eigner,
fall down end of line
not he, why not?
What did you do this morning?
un ex pec ted totally
surprise! I had a morning this morning
uh, little animals
and big grin: FOXES! same morning same radio sound
foxes live life going backward
(like particle on time waves ride the future)
Got to get that book!
one thousand and one or two
(do you like Ezra Pound, not all his ideas, some poems)
of paper much (in my case)
and no more time
So I said,
(to Larry?) what do you think
if I throw (burn, destroy, dislodge, shed, lighten, relief)
Jonestown (is not my son is a story
rehearsed visioned on particles
floating backward in time before 1978)
I grinned why not?
unique (no one but me with a red-headed son your
middle name (Joel) JOEL! (punctuate
every story all papers
People's Temple Newspaper
and Black Panthers
before it was news (LA TIMES said the story
that will not die) why? why not? throw away?
NOT THE LETTERS! (Larry was shocked)
from Temple members?
(on pretty note paper
after they died
on pretty note paper
and bread from Cassava they didn't have to
squeeze from Cassava
("we make many things, bake
cassava." on the pretty note paper.)
the deadly cyanide, small animals
eat the waste and die.
(forgot to tell Larry about Cassava!)
or give the papers magazines death tape
record album (few exist?) some writer
may still think there is something to say
I don't need to write about it after all
It's a start for one
books and papers and Larry
go together why separate?
(in his house)
for another (me)
I'll start my exit
from Jonestown first (don't need
ink words tattooed
brain soul heart mind?
(I guess it's because we talked about everything)
"You'll come and stay for supper?" (the phone invitation)
And off the phone, to Rick:
"I have everything and nothing
to say to Jesse!"
(Is that a compliment or what, Rick said.)
"She doesn't eat crab!" Finicky (Mama said) Oh well
Some kind of Mexican delicious corn?
(unusual) cuisine a la Albert photos by Rick
and French John ("I don't care if you call me John
doesn't matter I'm French)
and knew more
about MY hometown (Coos Bay
and Bunker Hill?
forgotten (by me) John, six months in Coos Bay
(me on a train leaving
fast getaway the day after
high school graduation American U., Wash. D.C.
John and Albert
more about Coos Bay
than I ever knew.
Charleston isn't the same
even a submarine base
(homesteaders, a pair of grandparents - mine, years ago)
Florence, near Charleston
more talk multi-cultural (did the Irish have it bad?
at the pow wow (listening, the resident Indian)
Me overcome at the pow wow Saturday,
Wasn't prepared (too prepared, living inside me,
as if I were there I wasn't committing genocide
walking walking there
On the long march and they called out by name
holding high the flag of the United
States of America
names, tribe after tribe after
gentle lift-up padding
"follow the drums" TEARS! "Reaffirming
our survival, the flag reminds us"
And other talk (Larry and Baltimore
the slaves (Africans in Africa) had slaves
I know not the same Kings by comparison
ALWAYS SLAVERY: this kind
America succeeded where no other had
institutionalized a business
your wealth ($800 in New Orleans)
America succeeded timewise won the record
Began where? talk about John Curl's
"Columbus and the
Bay of Pigs"
Who started it? (surely not Columbus)
whole peoples killed
(melted and put it in the Spaniard's throat
it looks improbable
(peek into a culture
vultures once raped see
a kettle boiling let's all get together and have
don't think so
leave it to heaven
multi-cultural is a word to lay with
leave it to heaven multi-cultural is a word to get money
leave it to heaven however
keep trying you can believe
that's the magic?
("magic and mysticism," Larry said words.
music might be read Larry said as words are
(and since words and music go together)
poems are heard (I know, Jack Foley says ORAL
Larry: "but it's not the whole story"
poems are heard (are read)
so music why not?
(we read "Pastorale" written for Beethoven's 5th)
composing music Jesse said Piston made no sense
I had to come from inside out
(trying to figure out the world by myself
variably poets do it
when it's all already been done)
inspired by almost everything
life inspired by poems.
—Dorothy Jesse Beagle