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The Alphabet (Modern & Contemporary Poetics) Paperback – September 4, 2008
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About the Author
Ron Silliman is the author or editor of twenty-six books of poetry or criticism, among them The Age of Huts (compleat), Tjanting, ABC, Demo to Ink, Paradise, ®, What, Woundwood, and the memoir Under Albany. He edited the landmark poetry anthology In the American Tree, and he has received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, two Fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, and three arts commission grants from the state arts councils of California and Pennsylvania. His widely read Silliman’s Blog, a daily journal devoted to contemporary poetry and poetics, has become a major force in online literary criticism.
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Very highly recommended for anyone who doesn't feel that poetry (or in this case, prose poetry) has to "make sense."
In this massive tome, there is little readerly pleasure to be had. Mostly, it is fragmentary "new sentences" often in the form of declarative. Silliman has theorized this "new sentence" quite extensively in the volume by the same name, which I think I may have reviewed. Being a member of "Language Poetry" Silliman has managed to publish this volume through the help of fellow language poet friends in academia, through the Alabama press series overseen by Charles Bernstein, among others.
I do challenge readers out there, who are interested in poetic technique, strong tropes, socially relevant themes, conceits, prosody, pathos, or any other effect-affect that good poetry elicits, to read through this book without the aura of an alleged counter-poetical mystique that Silliman assumes he possesses. What you will get is a bunch of sentences, informed by false linguistics and outmoded literary theories; as well as some not very interesting observations. The spectre of Zukofsky's "A" certainly looms large here, even Whitman because where Whitman embedded himself in the spirit of the democratic masses, Silliman tends to do the same only the spirit is lost in Capitalist decadence and all that remains is the trash of our own dead language and the failure to form into poetry itself is reified in his gigantic book (a gigantic failure, but not even an interesting postmodern "failure," usually just a regurgitation of the manifold impressions Silliman has on a bus... for a 1000 or so pages, pretending not be "the author")...