Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Ron Silliman Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 75
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
10.6 Linear feet
(26 archives boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1965-1988
Papers of Ron Silliman, American writer and editor. Silliman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life and
is associated with the Language school of contemporary writers. He edited the anthology In The American Tree, published in
1986. The papers include extensive correspondence with many prominent contemporary writers, including Rae Armantrout, Charles
Bernstein, Michael Davidson, Lyn Hejinian, Douglas Messerli, John Taggart, and Hanna Weiner. Also included are drafts of Silliman's
published works, notebooks, and materials relating to In the American Tree. The collection is divided into five series: 1)
ORIGINAL FINDING AID, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) IN THE AMERICAN TREE and 5) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
Andrews, Bruce, 1948-
Armantrout, Rae, 1947-
Davidson, Michael, 1944-
Eigner, Larry, 1927-
Mac Low, Jackson
Messerli, Douglas, 1947-
Silliman, Ronald, 1946-
Taggart, John, 1942-
Scope and Content of Collection
The Ron Silliman papers contain collected correspondence and writings related to Silliman's career as a writer. The materials
cover a range from the middle 1960's to 1988, excluding his most recent publication WHAT (1988). The collection is divided
into five series: 1) ORIGINAL FINDING AID, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS, 4) IN THE AMERICAN TREE and 5) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION
SERIES 1: ORIGINAL FINDING AID
The ORIGINAL FINDING AID was produced in 1986 by Ron Silliman in preparation for the sale of his papers. Located at the beginning
of the collection, this guide provides details and annotations not found in the present container list. The current arrangement
of the papers follows closely Silliman's original organization.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is comprised of letters received by Silliman over a period of more than twenty years. Among the
major correspondents are Bruce Andrews, Rae Armantrout, Barbara Baracks, Charles Bernstein, Michael Davidson, Alan Davies,
Ray DiPalma, Larry Eigner, Jack Foley, David Gitin, Robert Grenier, Lyn Hejinian, Doug Messerli, John Taggart, and Hannah
Weiner. The letters are arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and thereunder chronologically. Any undated materials have
been placed at the beginning of each folder, while writings of individuals follow at the end. Some carbon copies exist of
Silliman's outgoing correspondence beginning in the early 1980's.
The collection originally contained two large folders of unarranged letters. These have been organized alphabetically into
"miscellaneous" folders and placed at the beginning of each alphabet letter series. In cases in which Silliman had already
created folders for letters of the alphabet (e.g., "J - Misc."), other letters were simply added to them. Generally, the miscellaneous
materials represent brief exchanges -- often acceptance or rejection letters from publishers. Letters which lacked a surname
were placed in the folders marked "unidentified correspondents."
Absent from the CORRESPONDENCE series are materials created during the development and production of the anthology In the
American Tree. Correspondence with contributing authors and prospective publishers forms a separate series entitled IN THE
SERIES 3: WRITINGS
The WRITINGS series contains four subseries: "Typescripts"; "Early Poems"; "Notebooks"; and "Critical Works and Prose". The
"Typescripts" are the "correct" copies of the majority of Ron Silliman's texts with the exception of THE ALPHABET and some
of the poems in the "Early Poems -- Poems Retrieved" subseries. The original manuscript/typescript of In the American Tree
has been removed to the series of that title.
The typescript texts are arranged chronologically and remain in their original order. While some folders contain complete
works, such as The Age of Huts, Ketjak, and Tjanting, most gather individual poems. Also included in this subseries are the
texts for Silliman's early publications; Crow, Nox, and Mohawk.
The "Early Poems -- Poems Retrieved" subseries contains a number of poems not included in the "Typescripts" subseries. Their
organization is chronological and the groupings reflect Silliman's original ordering.
The "Notebooks" subseries contains the manuscript versions of many of his works. In some cases, a single notebook contains
a single text, while others contain several texts, collected poems, false starts, or the accumulated writing from a particular
time period. The notebooks are organized alphabetically by the title which Silliman assigned to each.
The most important work in the "Critical Works and Prose" subseries is THE NEW SENTENCE, a collection of critical essays begun
in 1977 which explores the role of poetics and its relationship to society. Many of these essays began as talks. The organization
of THE NEW SENTENCE materials follows the order of the book's table of contents, and includes correspondence between Silliman
and David Sternbach concerning the development of the text.
Also included in the "Critical Works" subseries are Tom Beckett's interview with Ron Silliman for the publication The Difficulties,
a collection of Silliman's book reviews alphabetized by author, an audio piece entitled "A.M.", and several examples of political
SERIES 4: IN THE AMERICAN TREE
The final series, IN THE AMERICAN TREE, contains both the original manuscript of the anthology, a combination of typescript
and photocopy, and correspondence with the contributing authors. Also included are letters to prospective publishers and drafts
of accompanying texts, such as the table of contents.
SERIES 5: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
Brittle and high-acid content materials have been photocopied onto acid-free paper. The copies have been substituted and the
originals have been placed in series order.
Ron Silliman was born in Pasco, Washington, in 1946. Raised north of Berkeley in Albany, California, Silliman has spent most
of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Merritt College in Oakland, San Francisco State University, and the
University of California, Berkeley.
Silliman has long been associated with the Language poets. This group of poets dates, according to Silliman, from the 1971
issue of This. Controversies over Language writing have been reflected in many influential journals of contemporary writing.
Although the designation "Language writer" is applied to a disparate group and is considered a misnomer by some of them, most
Language writers agree that conventions of language structure everyday experience; and most mistrust what they consider the
unacknowledged metaphysical assumptions of the New American poetics. Typically, Language writing redresses the illusions that
words signify separately constituted things and concepts and that grammar discloses relations among them. Instead, Language
is thought constitutive of that which it signifies and governs, through grammar, the relations which order things.
Ron Silliman's publications include Moon in the 7th House (Gunrunner Press, 1968), Crow (Ithaca House, 1971), Mohawk (Doones
Press, 1973), NOX (Burning Deck, 1974), Ketjak (This, 1978), Sitting Up, Standing, Taking Steps (Tuumba Press, 1978), Legend
(L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E/Segue, 1980), Tjanting (The Figures, 1981), Bart (Potes & Poets Press, 1982), ABC (Tuumba Press, 1983), Paradise
(Burning Deck, 1985), The Age of Huts (Roof, 1986), The New Sentence (Roof, 1987), Lit (Potes & Poets Press, 1987), and What
(The Figures, 1988). He was the editor of the influential anthology In the American Tree (The National Poetry Foundation,
1986), and currently he is the editor of Socialist Review.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Ron Silliman Papers, MSS 0075. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Collection is open for research.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Silliman, Ronald, 1946- -- Archives
American poetry--20th century.