Ron Silliman

Ron Silliman is one of the original group of San Francisco language poets. His ongoing long poem, The Alphabet, which now includes ABC (1983), Paradise (1985), What (1989), Toner (1992) and other volumes, will eventually grow to twenty-six booklength installments. Silliman has a preference for eccentric forms of his own invention. The book-length prose-poem Tjanting (1981) is written according to the Fibonacci number sequence, with the result that the number of sentences in each paragraph equals the number of sentences in the previous two paragraphs. Paradise was written as a sequence of paragraphs each of which was written in one sitting, with these paragraphs arranged in "monthly" groupings, and with the whole comprising "a year's diary." In writing what he has named the "new sentence," Silliman frustrates the convention of the poetic line as well as the political implication of closure. In such poems, Silliman says, "Sentence length is the unit of measure." George Hartley has suggested that Stein's Tender Buttons provides Silliman's model for the form. Raised in Albany, California, Silliman attended San Francisco State and Berkeley, worked as an organizer in the prison and tenant movements, was a lobbyist, an editor of the Socialist Review, and more recently a computer programmer and analyst. Since moving to the Philadelphia area he has been a regular affiliate of the Writers House. The reading/statement of his relation to William Carlos Williams was part of a Writers House program and is available in an audio file here: