Ron Silliman

Robert Duncan's notes on Ron Silliman's 'Opening'

In 1974, John Taggart asked Ron Silliman to write an essay for an issue of Maps (#6 - special Robert Duncan issue) on the work of Duncan.

On Robert Duncan, 'The Opening of the Field'

Reopening

The poems in Robert Duncan’s The Opening of the Field were written between 1956 and the beginning of 1959, the final two referring to events of 1958: the publication of Louis Zukofsky’s Barely & Widely and, on October 13, the US release of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

Legend: Group shot

Silliman, DiPalma, McCaffery, Bernstein, & Andrews, circa 1980

Legend 1

Lawrence Schwartzwald photos Poets House April 16, 2011

Grand Piano reading

Star Black photos at Poets House April 16, 2011

Grand Piano reading

four poets

From left to right, Frank Sherlock, Greg Djanikian, Ron Silliman and CA Conrad.

the new Eigner

Ron Silliman has written for his blog a terrific review of the big new multi-volume Collected Poems of Larry Eigner.

Poets in the green room

Robert Grenier and Ron Silliman at the Kelly Writers House this past Tuesday (October 27), just before Bob's reading/talk.

Marjorie Perloff on Ron Silliman

If it demonstrates form, they can't read it

Marjorie Perloff on Ron Silliman’s “Albany”:

As in his long poems Ketjak and Tjanting, both written a few years earlier, “Albany” relies on parataxis, dislocation, and ellipsis (the very first sentence, for example, is a conditional clause, whose result clause is missing), as well as pun, paragram, and sound play to construct its larger paragraph unit. But it is not just a matter of missing pieces. The poet also avoids conventional “expressivity” by refusing to present us with a consistent “I,” not specifying, for that matter, who the subject of a given sentence might be.

At the same time — and this has always been a Silliman trademark — indeterminacy of agent and referent does not preclude an obsessive attention to particular “realistic” detail. Despite repeated time and space shifts, the world of Albany, CA is wholly recognizable. It is, to begin with, not the Bay Area of the affluent — the Marin County suburbanites, Russian Hill aesthetes, or Berkeley middle-class go-getters. The working-class motif is immediately established with the reference to “My father withheld child support, forcing my mother to live with her parents, my brother and I to be raised together in a small room.” And this is the white working class: “Grandfather called them niggers.” Later, when the narrator is living in a part of San Francisco where, on the contrary, many ethnicities are represented, we read that “They speak in Farsi at the corner store.” The poet is a political activist: he participates in demonstrations and teach-ins, is briefly jailed, avoids the draft, and so on. There are many explanations of everyday things the activist must deal with: “The cops wear shields that serve as masks.” But the paragraph is also filled with references to sexual love: couplings and uncouplings, rape, miscarriage, and abortion. And finally, there is the motif of poetry: “If it demonstrates form they can’t read it.” And readings: “It’s not easy if your audience doesn’t identify as readers.” Writing poetry is always a subtext but one makes one’s living elsewhere: “The want-ads,” as the last sentence reminds us, “lie strewn on the table.”

From her essay, “Language Poetry and the Lyric Subject.” Here’s the entire section of the essay devoted to “Albany.”

Ron Silliman reading at KWH earlier tonight

Ron read a sampling from the 1000-page The Alphabet, taking sections in (why not?) alphabetical order. He ended with a beautiful piece from VOG about Larry Eigner. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him read so well. He was on.

Here’s the video recording of the event.

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