Ron Silliman

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.

The Williams who torques sentences

The William Carlos Williams that motivated a young Robert Creeley was The Wedge of 1944. For Ron Silliman and--he suspects--others among those who "became known as Language Poet[s]"--the key Williams was to be found in Spring & All (1923). They found it in the 1970 Frontier Press edition.

Silliman believes that one of the important distinctions between the Language Poets and earlier avant-garde generations was their "different reading" of Williams - their Spring & All-centered reading of him.

Grease is the word (PoemTalk #8)

Rae Armantrout, 'The Way'

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

This time the PoemTalkers were Ron Silliman, Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Charles Bernstein, and our poem was Rae Armantrout’s “The Way.” Charles had already spoken with Rae about this poem briefly during their interview in the Close Listening series, so we went into our convo knowing that Rae sees the poem as having two compositional parts—a first part consisting of found phrases, items from the poet’s notebook of linguistic observations, a collage of voices, no fixed I. “I am here” is Jesus revealed to you in a pew, but I is also a poem’s prospective speaker: someone saying something tautological. Where else would you be, at the moment, than here? The second half, again according to the poet—revealingly or not—is a quasi-personal recollection: being read to as a child, getting lost in a story and thus feeling “abandoned” by the mother who gave her the gift of books. Gretel-like, does she “come upon” these trees, this wood, each time diving into the wreck of each new now-nonnarrative venture? The most relevant of such ventures being...this poem itself? Who is lost in it? Have we lost the poem’s speaker, only to come upon her again (and again)?

Charles chants lyrics from Grease: Grease is the way I am feeling. Rachel reminds us that “I am here” can also read as “Kilroy was here” does — a marker left by someone who came randomly before. Ron helps us focus on the ending: a grand vision expected, a definitive something, the light coming down through the trees, and what we get is…“again.” The sort of thing that keeps happening over and over. “Once” (as in “once upon a time”) in “once again” (the fairy tale’s synchronicity).

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