Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eigner and Dickinson

I've been much-inspired lately by the poetry of Larry Eigner and Emily Dickinson. After my incursions into digitized cut-and-paste techniques, these two poets take me back to the basic materials of pen, paper, typewriter; and in Eigner's case, the poetry of immediate perception.
The work of both these writers is also resistant to print and publication; in Dickinon's case because almost all her poetry came down to us hand-written, with no authorised print version, and in Eigner's case, because his disability meant that he produced text using a typewriter with great difficulty; his typescripts, with their positioning of text and his corrections and annotations, are arguably the most authentic representations of his poems.
Yet the manuscripts of both of these poets are hard to see; in Eigner's case, his big Collected from Stanford University Press is set in Courier, and is doesn't consist of scanned originals. In the case of Dickinson, her handmade fascicle booklets are available in fascimile, but at a cost - around 300 pounds; but why aren't the originals of her poems available on the web? There are a few, if you look for them, but why haven't the been scanned and made available as a public resource? Why can't we buy selections of her work with the original manuscripts alongside, as you can with Blake? It's incredible that, one hundred and twenty five years after her death, Dickinson's work is not out of copyright. As Dickinson scholar Betsa Erkkila puts it "[The Dickinson papers] are now owned collectively by Harvard University and Amherst college, where access to and circulation of her writing are vigorously policed and controlled. If you want to quote from or publish the work of Dickinson, you must ask for the privilege and pay the price." All of which is ironic, when the poet herself said:

Publication - is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man -

1 comment:

Ed Baker said...
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