[Wgcp-whc] Fri 11/7--Silliman visit: questions, minutes

richard.deming at yale.edu richard.deming at yale.edu
Wed Oct 29 01:10:52 EDT 2008

Dear All--

I still need to give some report on Michael Palmer's visit but our sessions have
been so fast and furious that it seems better to be looking to the next visitor.
 Below, I will paste the series of questions drawn from our very intensive
conversation about the work of Ron Silliman, his massive 1000 page work The

The issue of the politics of poetic form continued from our discussions of
Palmer's work.  Silliman sees radical parataxis and the denaturalizing of the
trope of "voice" as being intrinsically political acts.  Moreover he seeks in
his work to fashion a "non-referential writing."  Making the political
inflections more manifest, Silliman writes in "If by 'Writing' We Mean
'Literature,'": All meaning is a construct, built from the dterminate code of
language.  New meanings exist only to the extent that they have been previously
repressed, not premitted to reach consciousness.  But it is necessary to seek
the social base of any meaning not in the self-reflexivity of the text, as
such, but in its relation to the social positionaliy of its auidnece & author."
 By creating texts that activate particpation of the reader in the production of
meaning, poetry's latent politicsal implications become more explicit.  What the
role of asthetics in this poetics is an issue that we can take up at our next

Our next session will be Friday Nov. 7 from 3-5 in Rm 116 in the Whitney
Humanities Center.  As I mentioned, Silliman will be joining us for this
conversation. The session is open to anyone who might be interested, so do be
sure to spread the word.

The questions below will be, as they were with Palmer, merely a framework for
our discussion.  The conversation will be a dialogue, not an interview, with a
free flowing exchange of ideas.

"The Working Group in Contemporary Poetry and Poetics meets every other Friday
at 3.00 PM in room 116 at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University to
discuss problems and issues of contemporary poetry within international
alternative and /or avant-garde traditions of lyric poetry. All are welcome to

And one last thing: Vincent Broqua, a WGCP member at large, has written a very
useful, generative article on British experimental writers that many on this
list would find very interesting. I highly recommend it--the piece is available
at http://www.e-rea.org/index201.html


R=i-c=h=a=r=d Deming

Questions: Yale Seminar in Contemporary Poetics

You have referred to The Alphabet as a ?life poem? rather than a long poem. 
What are the qualitative differences?  In what ways is The Alphabet in
conversation/debate with such Modernist works as Paterson, The Cantos or even
The Maximus Poems and ?A??

It has been said of The Alphabet that it serves as a cultural and historical
repository, particularly in its material references. What is the role of
history within your poetry? What can poetry teach history?  This might tie back
to the first question if we shift terms and ask what is The Alphabet?s stance
in terms of epic?

Recently Michael Palmer visited us and in talking about rupture in terms of
poetry and poetics, he described that rupture?s paradoxically mimetic
qualities.  While rupture or disruption is a resistance to predeterminations of
form and meaning as these are constructions that are false, misleading, or even
hegemonic, the disruption becomes a sort of realism, representing the world or
ourselves as perceiving subjects which are indeed discontinuous and fragmented.
In what ways would you argue with this or agree with it? Could you articulate
your differences between your poetics and Palmer?s (obviously as you see it)?

How is it that you came to be so invested in avant-garde poetries and poetics?

Given the sprawl of a section like ?What,? can you give an idea of what the
compositional parameters you had in mind were?  The obvious way of asking this
would be: how do you know when you?re done?  Of course, another approach
might be to cite the New York school painter

What is the role of ?VOG??the section of The Alphabet that is your
experiment with writing ?ordinary poems?-- in the overall economy of the

What consistency of experience (both as a text and as representation) does your
undertaking of The Alphabet seek to edify or resist?

To what extent and how is the lyric responsible for its own historicity?

How would you describe the evolution of the formal concerns you were working
with over the time period that you composed The Alphabet?  Did feedback from
your readers influence change in your manner of imaging the final composition?
Is "Alphabet" now a  'finished work'? How does its status as (in)complete
relate to your  other activities as a writer?

The question about feedback in the prior question brings up the idea of
community.  What is the role of community in poetic production and values?  How
has community determined aspects of your work?  How has community changed over
the years, especially in the the age of the internet.  Or are we now moving
past local community to a post-local idea of community (as in the blogosphere)?

What concrete effects has your blogging practice had on your writing and your

How do you imagine The Alphabet being read?  In short intervals?as much as
humanly possible per sitting?  Ideally, would each section be read in its
entirety before moving on?  Is it necessarily sequential? Given the structure
and size of the Alphabet are you interested in the experience of duration in

Let us ask the broadest of questions, though relevant to a reader confronting
The Alphabet: what is the difference between prose and poetry?

You have continually described a connection between poetics and politics
throughout your writing career. How have your views about the politics of
poetic form or evolved over the years?

Given how prolific you are as a writer and the fact that you have a ?day
job,? can you say something about how you manage your time?  This isn?t
necessarily so light a question, since in reality this will give some insight
into the way you integrate your writing work with your general ideas of labor
and production.  These are questions that readers of William Carlos Williams,
for instance, might be interested in.

Are there any school of quietude poets you read and if so, what do they have to
offer your understanding of poetry?

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