Experiment as a Claim of the Book
Twenty Different Fruits on One Different Tree
Prefacing his selection of poets for the 1986 anthology In the American Tree, Ron Silliman observed that “the resources available to this moment in writing have been remarkably abundant.” This re®ection follows immediately upon a list of over eighty poets not included, but from whom a “volume of absolutely comparable worth could be constructed” (xxi, xx). Silliman’s list was prescient, including numerous poets likely to be on an informed list for a prospective anthology today: Ken Irby, Beverly Dahlen, Rosmarie Waldrop, Alice Notley, Kathleen Fraser, Keith Waldrop, Craig Watson, Norman Fischer, John Taggart, Joan Rettalack, Leslie Scalapino, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Maureen Owen, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Lorenzo Thomas, and Aaron Shurin, to cite a generous baker’s dozen.1 Needless to add, Silliman’s more concrete act of anthologizing thirty-eight poets established a canon of “language poetry” that has proven nearly intractable, at least as an object of reference, reverence, or
1. Most of these poets, along with several others on Silliman’s list, have in fact been included in the most recent round of important anthologies edited by Paul Hoover, Douglas Messerli, and Eliot Weinberger. Of poets continuing to fall between the anthological cracks—to restrict myself to Silliman’s list—I would want to draw attention to Johanna Drucker, Gerrit Lansing, Charles Stein, and Don Byrd.