Text VII

Article excerpt

Ronald Silliman is chiefly known for his participation in the development of Language poetry in the late 1970s and 1980s; his 1986 anthology, In the American Tree, brings together much of this work, which experiments with structure, syntax, and the question of referentiality in poetics. When he helped select the preceding selection of Bay Area poets, this movement was yet to come. SILLIMAN recently explained the moment before Language poetry hit and explains how his own "Text VII," which appeared in the Spring 1971 issue, would engage questions that became central to subsequent Language writings:

In the late 1960s, editor Eugene Wildman and poetry editor Iven Lourie hit upon the idea, as Iven once explained it to me, to consciously "discover" several poets and promote their work by publishing them on something close to a regular basis. Four white males, Dennis Schmitz, Bill Hunt, Robin Magowan and myself, all benefited from this plot to influence the world, even as Eugene and Iven moved on in the way that editors do from a college publication. My earliest work in Chicago Review, which appeared in 1968, had been written when I was barely 20 years old and slavishly (if ineptly) imitating what I thought to be "publishable" verse, particularly the Yale books by Alan Dugan. Less than two years later, David Melnick (B.S. in math from U. of Chicago and a onetime roommate of Iven 's) and I were to publish a feature of Bay Area poetry in the journal that, had we just waited another few months, could have been the first true "language poetry" document to reach print. (Our omission from that gathering of the work of Robert Grenier and Rae Armantrout can only be justified in retrospect as cowardice, lunacy or idiocy on our parts.) As it was, Iven had to become the general editor for the issue since no one else wanted to accept responsibility for that collection. The feature itself l think represents the Bay Area at the last possible moment before the advent of langpo became its driving force. …