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Ron Silliman Papers
MSS 75  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Access

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ron Silliman Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS 75
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
    Languages: English
    Physical Description: 10.6 Linear feet (26 archives boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1965-1988
    Abstract: 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.
    Creator: Andrews, Bruce, 1948-
    Creator: Armantrout, Rae, 1947-
    Creator: Bromige, David
    Creator: Davidson, Michael, 1944-
    Creator: DiPalma, Ray
    Creator: Eigner, Larry, 1927-
    Creator: Hejinian, Lyn
    Creator: Mac Low, Jackson
    Creator: McCaffery, Steve
    Creator: Messerli, Douglas, 1947-
    Creator: Silliman, Ronald, 1946-
    Creator: Taggart, John, 1942-
    Creator: Weiner, Hannah

    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 PHOTOCOPIES.
    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.
    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 AMERICAN TREE.
    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 prose.
    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.
    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

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Preferred Citation

    Ron Silliman Papers, MSS 0075. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1988.


    Collection is open for research.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Silliman, Ronald, 1946- -- Archives
    American poetry--20th century.
    Diaries--20th century.