Friday, October 08, 2004

Ron Silliman in San Francisco

Dear Minor Americans,

The fog is rolling in across the hills, blocking the radio lights of twin peaks. The air is soft with it. I've been following Ron Silliman through the city all day, beginning with his talk at SF State on Duncan's unpublished H.D. book. What I liked most about the talk was the fact that it seemed largely to be about Duncan and Silliman, rather than Duncan and H.D. Silliman knew Duncan and the way he structured his talk around the H.D. book made it clear that his work around Duncan was at least in part attempting to understand the way Duncan constructed his poetics and how this construction led him to reject the poetries of his younger contemporaries in the Bay Area, the Language Poets, Silliman being one of the most famous of this group. Silliman explained how Duncan because he was raised as a theosiphist was drawn to things that revealed hidden structures -- Freudian Psychology, Marx, Structuralist linguistics etc. Part of Duncan's attraction to H.D. was that she, too, as a Moravian would understand this notion of the hidden which Duncan first learned through mysticism and later found in other branches of knowledge. Silliman argued that after working on the H.D. book he sees that Duncan was caught at a time of transition in American Intellectual history. In the seventies, mysticism was replaced by Post Structuralist theory and the Language Poets seemed to Duncan like a bunch of boring leftists masquerading as poets. This is the part of the talk that I found most touching. To me it was clear that Silliman was coming to terms with this patriarch who had rejected his work, mostly out of an inability to adapt himself as a reader to a new point of view. Silliman was clear to say that he hoped he wouldn't cultivate this same type of blind spot as an elder in the poetry community. And he through his blog and heavy reading of younger poets has been very careful not to.

I when I lived for a short spell in NYC over seven years ago developed a prejudice against the male Language poets because of several run-ins with some "elders" at the Poetry Project and elsewhere. They were dismissive of younger people's work unless it was explicitly derived from Language Poetry. My plan of attack then became I'll hate them before they hate me. When I arrived shortly after in Philadelphia where Silliman now lives I wrongly assumed he would be the same and quietly rejected him as a possible person with whom I could discuss writing. I've been learning slowly, mostly through his blog, that I was wrong. And today it was very clear that I was wrong and that if I continued to dismiss Ron I would only be doing my own brain a disservice. I was glad then when tonight for the first time I could let myself take great pleasure in Silliman's reading without defensively sitting there like a petulant child, thinking "us vs. them." I guess then we've arrived at post-patriarchy.

-- Minor American


Ron said...

Post-patriarchy is one mode of Postie I could get behind. Thanks for your kind words, Maggie,


Anonymous said...

great ..thanks for sharing.....

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