Poets and Critics Symposium 2017.1 : Ron Silliman, Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 March, 2017

(c) Jeff Hurwitz

The next Poets and Critics Symposium will be devoted to the work of Ron Silliman.

Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 March.

Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot, Bâtiment Olympe de Gouges
9:45am-5pm, room 830 (8th floor of the Olympe de Gouges Building).

Howimage doigt petit to get there?
For detailed instructions and directions, click HERE.

Poetry reading with Ron Silliman and his translator Martin Richet
Tuesday 7 March, 6:30pm, Hall de la Bibliothèque des Grands Moulins5, rue Thomas Mann, 75013 Paris. Map with directions from metro station to university library: click HERE.
Accès : métro ligne 14 ou RER C (arrêt : Bibliothèque François Mitterrand), tram T3a (arrêt : Avenue de France), bus n° 62 et 89.

So far, we’ve tried to focus on the writer’s own (creative and critical) work on the first day of the P&C symposia and on broader issues of poetics and practice-based criticism with the writer on the second day. But there’s no specific preconceived program for the 2 days of the symposium: as the previous sessions of the program have shown, it seems important to let the conversation take its own course.

Please note that the morning session of the first day is devoted to preparing the conversation with Ron Silliman which will take place during the afternoon session and the second day. Ron Silliman will be joining the group at 2pm on Tuesday 7 March.

As usual, we intend to address all aspects of our guest’s work as poet, prose-writer, critic and editor. Please feel free to make suggestions as to particular books that you would like to discuss during the symposium.

Ron Silliman was born in Pasco, Washington, although his parents stayed there just long enough for his mother to learn that one could step on field mice while walking barefoot through the snow to the outhouse, and for his father to walk away from a plane crash while smuggling alcohol into a dry county. As a result he grew up in and around Berkeley, on the town side of the town/gown class divide, but benefitting from the presence of an already existing literary community and becoming the first member of his family to attend college. A conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, he left the University of California to perform alternative service and worked in the NGO-sector for 17 years, eventually becoming the executive editor of the Socialist Review. He later worked in the high-tech sector before retiring as a market analyst in 2011. Since then he has taught poetry at the University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College and Naropa University as well as a number of community settings.

Silliman has written and edited over 30 books, and is most widely known for an ongoing longpoem entitled Ketjak, constructed around a sequence of shorter cycles of poems: The Age of Huts, Tjanting, The Alphabet and the still-in-progress Universe. Shorter is a relative term, as The Alphabet alone is over 1,000 pages and Universe is projected to be 360 book-length works. Thus far, three volumes from Universe have appeared: Revelator from BookThug in Canada, Northern Soul from Shearsman in Britain, and Against Conceptual Poetry from Counterpath in the US.

In addition to his poetry, Silliman’s collection of critical essays, The New Sentence, has been in print continuously for 30 years, as has his anthology of language poetry, In the American Tree. The New Sentence itself has become synonymous with the literary montage device that has become widespread in poetry in English. Silliman has also participated in a number of critical collaborative projects such as the collective history of San Francisco poetics entitled The Grand Piano and a memoir of a Soviet-era literary conference, Leningrad. A new volume of essays is forthcoming.

Silliman has had his poetry and criticism translated into 16 languages. He was a 2012 Kelly Writers House Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and the 2010 recipient of the Levinson Prize, from the Poetry Foundation. His sculpture Poetry (Bury Neon) is permanently on display in the transit center of Bury, Lancashire, and he has a plaque in the walk dedicated to poetry in his home town of Berkeley, although he now lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania.



Ron Silliman, a critical bibliography

Aji, Hélène. “The Stakes of Narrative in the Poetries of David Antin, Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian: New Forms, New Constraints.” Revue Française d’Études Américaines 103 (2005): 79-92.

Boon, Carl J. “Parataxis and Possibility: Ron Silliman’s ‘Alphabet’.” Thesis. Ohio U, n.d. Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences (20070101 2007 Nov): 1936-937.

Brito, Manuel, Carme Manuel, and Paul Scott Derrick. “Ron Silliman’s Remarks on Post-Referential Poetry.” N.p.: Universitat De València, 2003. 61-69.

Elburg, Fredrika Van. “Reading on the Bus: Ron Silliman’s Tjanting.” Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics 5 (2008): 132-54.

Epstein, Andrew. “The Volley Maintained Nears Orgasm: Rae Armantrout, Ron Silliman, and the Cross-Gender Collaboration.”  In Among Friends: Engendering the Social Site of Poetry. Eds. Anne Dewey and Libbie Rifkin (University of Iowa Press, 2013): 171-190.

Epstein, Andrew. “‘There Is No Content Here, Only Dailiness‘: Poetry as Critique of Everyday Life in Ron Silliman’s Ketjak.” Contemporary Literature 51.4 (2010): 736-76.

Galey-Sacks, Penelope. “Songlines and Entropy in Ron Silliman’s Ketjak.” Études Anglaises: Revue du Monde Anglophone 65.2 (2012): 181-92.

Huntsperger, David W. Procedural Form in Postmodern American Poetry: Berrigan, Antin, Silliman, Hejinian. N.p.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Hussain, Nasser S. “Performing Ketjak: The Theater of the Observed.” Postmodern Culture: An Electronic Journal of Interdisciplinary Criticism 20.1 (2009): n. pag.

Kimmelman, Burt. “Reading the Posthuman Subject in The Alphabet.” Reading the Difficulties: Dialogues with Contemporary American Innovative Poetry. Eds. Thomas Fink and Judith Halden-Sullivan. Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 2014. 70-92.

Lavender, William. “Disappearance of Theory, Appearance of Praxis: Ron Silliman, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and the Essay.” Poetics Today 17.2 (1996): 181-202.

Martin, Stephen-Paul. “A Paradigm Lost: Ron Silliman’s Paradise & the Archaeology of Language.” Sagetrieb: A Journal Devoted to Poets in the Imagist/Objectivist Tradition 8.1-2 (1989): 201-08.

Parker, Richard Thomas Arie. “‘A’ and the A’s’ Louis Zuko’v’sky Goes West.” Textual Practice 26.6 (2012): 1065-080.

Perloff, Marjorie. “Language Poetry and the Lyric Subject: Ron Silliman’s Albany, Susan Howe’s Buffalo.” Critical Inquiry 25.3 (1999): 405-34.

Stout, John C. “Experimenting with Letters: Alphabetical Sequences in Contemporary Innovative Poetry: Bök, Silliman, Mullen, and Christensen.” Modern Language Review 111.3 (2016): 613-32, 914.

Watkin, William. “The Materialization of Prose: Poiesis versus Dianoia in the Work of Godzich & Kittay, Shklovsky, Silliman and Agamben.” Paragraph: A Journal of Modern Critical Theory 31.3 (2008): 344-64.

Watkin, William. “‘Systematic Rule-Governed Violations of Convention‘: The Poetics of Procedural Constraint in Ron Silliman’s BART and The Chinese Notebook.” Contemporary Literature 48.4 (2007): 499-529.


Should you want us to add a title to the bibliography, please fill in the form below and submit it. Thank you.


For an extensive bibliography of articles on Ron Silliman’s work, click on image below.

RS bibli crit