Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thoughts on Silliman's visit

It was weird. I was sick, heard everything through a phlegmy fog, so take this as you will. Perceptions may be equally phlegm-bound. (Yuck.)

Ron is very literal, anecdotal, avuncular, a bit of a pontificator, funny. He seems, overall, to have a set of narrative playing cards that he just endlessly reshuffles. When he walked into Barrett's seminar I thought his affect was slightly defensive, but maybe this was nervousness masked as a certain diffidence. He and Barrett pushed back and forth at each other, which was fun to watch. Ron would be a good teacher. Was surprised at how un-theoretical he was. (Not "anti" just, "un-" or maybe "non-", which I enjoyed, don't get me wrong). He is grounded in particulars and in the genealogy of the poetry world, which makes sense, I guess.

Then the talk he gave on blogging was a bit weird. His long intro detailing his migration from the San Fran area to Pennsylvania and the resultant loss of a vibrant, face-to-face, challenging and inspiring poetic community (I was thinking of it as a "critical region" but that didn't go over that well, for Ron at least) and then the replacement of that with the blogworld seemed odd. You could read the influence of the on-going Grand Piano work in that narrative, and one wondered how much he was just reciting from memory much of his contribution to that. In contrast to that collaborative, engaged history and present project that is attempting to make sense of it, I was struck by the sense that Ron doesn't seem particularly challenged or engaged by others in his blogworld. The blog may be a way of connecting, but it was interesting to hear him lay out a personal historical narrative of that prior connected life and then compare it to the the blog he writes. Of course, Ron's blog is, after all, Ron's, so he can do with it as he wishes!
Unsurprisingly--for those who have any familiarity with his blog themes--his introductory framework for the blog talk was the increase in published poets over the past, say, 50 years. Ron points this out a lot, and it always makes me wonder what, exactly, is his point. It has occured to me that there's a pattern to Ron's use of this quantitative trope. Ron claims: There's a ton of possibly excellent poetry out there; Ron gives a list of works he's received in the last week or month or so; Ron picks from this overhwelming pile of possibly great stuff, *one* gem.; Ron tells us why that book is worthy, has value, might just be historically significant; Ron does an impressive and careful job of close reading the work, convincing his readers why this is, indeed, excellent work. Ron has made a name for someone, to some extent, because, he, Ron Silliman, has placed his impramatur upon them. A few stalwart poetry geeeks complain, rant, pontificate endlessly, write non-sensical poems in response, point out infinitesimal "errors," etc. A few others comment carefully and thoughtfully, if hesitantly. Usually, the poet pops up to say, "Wow! Gee! Thanks Ron!" Interesting poetry folks stay silent. We all know the drill. I find it all fascinating, lubricious. The poetry world. This, of course, is where the wonderful, terrible Jim Behrle comes in.

Ron and Tracie Morris's reading that same day was amazing. Organic, moving, intelligent, funny.
The combination of Ron and Tracie was inspired and inspiring. It was as though two distinct yet resonant phenomenological methods as poetry, grounded in attention to attention, to material engagement, and to the political valences that crop up through those grounded modes of attention, were set off against each other, allowed to inform each other. An expansiveness that accrued in each performance triggered different responses for me, yet I felt their connection in the rhythmic forms they produced and expanded upon. That is to say, Tracie's sound poetry made sense of Ron's cumulative and accretive syntax, and Ron's expansive, repetitive form played off Tracie's verbal/sonic emotiveness.

It was a good few days in poetry-land.

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