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Ron Silliman Biography

(1946– ), Socialist Review, The New Sentence, Ketjak, Tjanting, What, The Alphabet Book, From Demo to Ink

American poet, born in Pasco, Washington. Residing in the San Francisco area, he has worked as a political organizer, an editor of Socialist Review, a teacher and college administrator, and in the computer industry. His influential essays (collected in The New Sentence, 1987) on the economic and political conditions of poetry argue that language has been commodified in the West. Referentiality helps maintain existing power relations by making them seem real and natural: ‘My intention is to incite a riot in the “prison house of language”.’ He coined the phrase ‘the new sentence’ in an essay which describes his own and others' practice as the use of sentences and syntax in such a way that they obstruct a reader's easy assimilation into larger structures, and therefore focus attention at the level of the sentence. His long works Ketjak (1978), Tjanting (1981), What (1989), and The Alphabet Book (only parts, notably From Demo to Ink, 1992, have yet been published), are based on large-scale generative structures (Tjanting uses the Fibonacci series), and consist of autobiographical sentences in a disjunct structure, depicting the Bay Area, politics, everyday life, and the act of writing in an elegant, often epigrammatic manner. (See Language Poetry.)

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Seven Against Thebes (Hepta epi Thēbas; Septem contra Thebas) to Sir Walter Scott and Scotland