Ron Silliman

March 19–20, 2012


Ron Silliman has been crucial to the changing scope of contemporary American poetry for more than forty years. A founder of the Language poetry movement, Silliman established the concept of "the new sentence," which Penn's own poet and scholar Bob Perelman calls "defiantly unpoetic." "Its shifts break up attempts at the natural reading of universal, authentic statements." Perelman continues, "Instead they encourage attention to the act of writing and to the writer's multiple and mediated positions within larger social frames."

Silliman's first book, Crow, was published in 1971. His collection Paradise won the Poetry Center Book Award from San Francisco State University in 1985. Silliman has written and edited over 30 books, including a memoir, Under Albany (2004), which was named a book of the year by Small Press Traffi. His remarkable and notorious twenty-six part poem The Alphabet was written continuously between 1979 and 2004. He was a Pew Fellow in the Arts in 1998, a 2002 Fellow of the Pennsylvania Arts Council, a 2003 Literary Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 2006 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. He was also one of the first to launch a poetry blog, which received its 3 millionth visit in October 2010.

Silliman's unique work in his field has merited respect from a broad base of readers, but also from the finest writers. Eminent poetics critic (and 2011 Writers House Fellow) Marjorie Perloff writes of the poem "Albany": "In their curious collisions, these 'casual' sentences point to an author who is matter-of-fact, street-wise, and largely self-educated; his is the discourse of a working-class man [...] who has slowly and painfully learned the craft of poetry. Yet Silliman's characteristic formulations are by no means gloomy: on the contrary, his 'voice' emerges as sprightly, engaged, curious, fun-loving, energetic."

Reading for the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program, March 19, 2012

  1. introduction by Al Filreis (6:32): MP3
  2. introduction by Rivky Mondal (6:16): MP3
  3. introduction by Jamie-Lee Josselyn (2:14): MP3
  4. from Ketjak (14:45): MP3
  5. remarks on Ketjak (3:39): MP3
  6. Ketjak shadow text (22:09): MP3
  7. Q & A (14:19): MP3

Discussion during the the Kelly Writers House Fellows Program, March 20, 2012

  1. spontaneous prose and RS's relationship with "First thought, best thought" as an idea (3:48): MP3
  2. obsessiveness in RS's writing (9:37): MP3
  3. student responses to reading Ketjak and RS's experience coming out of the first generation of readers who looked at Pound, Williams and Stein together (3:55): MP3
  4. the academy and radical pedagogy (10:21): MP3
  5. on RS's elegy for Larry Eigner and the line "I WANT SPEECH" in response to Bob Grenier's "I HATE SPEECH" (6:48): MP3
  6. RS reading "For Larry Eigner, Silent" (5:32): MP3
  7. RS discussing his blog and the decision to disable comments (7:28): MP3
  8. the relation between embodiment and disembodiment in RS's work and using numbering systems in writing (7:03): MP3
  9. on John Cage's influence (2:57): MP3
  10. RS's current relationship to politics and Marxism (7:24): MP3
  11. RS's relationship to Ezra Pound (4:34): MP3
  12. on work, play and labor (4:53): MP3
  13. RS on his grandmother and his first muse (3:59): MP3