Ron Silliman is bashing Andrew Motion again. Although, think: it’s funny how little essential difference there is between what many of us can agree is erection-obliteratingly crappy verse and the stuff Silliman obviously considers good (eg, the verse of Ron Silliman). Silliman drubs the following hackneyed passage, from Motion, for being what it is:

Earth’s axel creaks; the year jolts on; the trees
begin to slip their brittle leaves, their flakesof rust
and darkness takes the edge off daylight, not
because it wants to – never that. Because it must.

… while failing to mention that he, Ron Silliman, is guilty of having written the following, so boldly hackneyed in its own standard crypto-narcisso, incest-enfeebled POOETREE way:

from NON

For Jackson Mac Low

Proto-mallie: the flaneur.
“The older I get the more
floors I discover
at Macys.” Little red
thermos looks like
fire extinguisher. Ants won’t cross
trail of
petroleum jelly. Hat
with no bill, cubist
leather beret.
Sore on my tongue, smell
of dung. Voice’s choices
sight’s relight. In gaol
they make you surrender
your panty hose
to prevent suicide.
The crowd of protesters
approach, chanting
“out of the boutiques
and into the streets.”
Seagull brushes
up against my cap.
Rude Work Ahead.
Velcro strap,
reusable cast.
Dog’s name
is Cutty.
Eco-Brutalism, Deep
Semiology. Sturgeon
General. Boot failure!
Odd trim
of the ear’s rim.
The neck seen as a tube is
seen incorrectly.
Post-its peeking
from a three-ring binder.
Dog snarls
behind window of
locked Rabbit.
Morning’s magic means
make my
daily bread. Ears
put head in
brackets. Hypervariables
in DNA show up
on screen like
Bar code
on a cereal box.
Rushed writing.
one is to words
always an outsider,
tho they invade your head,
colonize dreams.
Neither an Aram
nor Omar be.
Picking your teeth versus
picking your nose. Voice
echoes up the lightwell.
Reading to discern liquids
from the bottoms of used cups.
Place mats
map the table.
De Man who shot liberty: valence.
Blue sparks fly
in the dark tunnel
beneath the train’s wheels.
The sound of an egg cracking
against the bowl’s edge.
All sirens are narrative.
The brothers hover in the doorway
smokin’ their crack♣.
Powdery sugar
atop apple pancake.
Now that we have computers
liquid paper is doomed.
Pair of grackles
attempt to mate
perched atop
Amtrak arrow logo
till the she-male
jumps into flight.
Water fountain’s
cooling motor
hums on.
An odd john;
high urinals
and low basins
hard to tell apart.
Thimbalism. “JWs,”
he sniffed and sniffed he did,
“black Mormons.” yellow stone house
across the way, in which lives
Mrs. Florence Schneider
amid her treasures, rare china,
fine handspun cotton, a garden
of grape hyacinth–that odd
blue purple. Dump truck
pale blue filled with clay
atop which lays a shovel.
Black lores of the red cardinal.
Rounded shovel
is for cutting into
the earth, square ones
for piling it away.
Combination of
the swing and these
new reading glasses
quickly makes me seasick.
Back panel of greeting cards.

This POOUHM is beyond parody, no? An accurate parodist would only end up producing roughly the same and scoring a spot in the TPA (Thousand-Page Anthology) right next to Ron’s. One of the defining strictures of the Ahtform is concision, but meaning becomes imaginary (ie, a wholly reader-added value) under a crucial cut-off point having something to do with the author’s genuine will (or ability) to communicate. For example: reducing a sentence such as “the cat shat on the tea tray” to the lapidary Wiccan monosyllable “cat” might magnify the aura of allusion, while eroding the actual meaning to nil, but the temptation to do so, for most POOETS, would be pen-rendingly tough to beat back.

-At roughly the hundreth line of the POOUHM we find: Black lores of the red cardinal, for instance. This line is only required to appear to mean/evoke/deconstruct or adumbrate anything for as long as it takes for the eye to skip over it; it’s not even a gratuitous description because it does not describe: all it really does is mention something. In POOETREE, mentioning is all. (Try mentioning grackles the next time you write a POOUHM… it always works. Esp. good as a HAIKU’S title or in a CONCRETE POOUHM shaped like grackles).

♣-The brothers hover in the doorway smokin’ their crack is only required to seem hip/inclusive/ funny until it reveals itself to be a lame old honkie maneuver in the manner of the Coonshow crap Ray Carver often resorted to in order to borrow depth from the pit of his racism.


If any AHTFORM cries out for the mercy of a less lingering, foot-dragging (no pun intended) extinction, it’s POOETREE. Just like Jazz (to which it is often linked by a genealogy of Cold War cliches), POOETREE is only any good, any more, when it comes to us as a mocking gift from the dead. In the so-called West, I mean.

Are certain AHTFORMS era-contingent? Appears so. Think back to when Pottery (a near-anagram) was King. It once seemed inevitable that  even working class men would have no choice but to own kilns. Yet, one sweet morning we all woke up from the nightmare and this threat, like the draft (coterminally, in fact?), was over.

Think of it: just as cinema audiences once busted guts laughing at the spectacle of Charlie Chaplin rolling in doubletime down a hill, matrons once flushed (right hands pressed demurely to substantial satin bosoms) while reading The Wasteland.

A year or two ago I wrote a string of “poems” to supplement a chain of linked stories on a specific topic (Berlin) and despite the fact that I steered phobically clear of the twee, self-obsessed and uselessly obscure, it struck me, upon completion of the task, that in writing “poems” at all I might as well be bringing an acoustic guitar to a dinner party in case a jam session breaks out after dessert.

Aye, but: any of these futile “poems” of mine (image-rich, kinky, and demanding just enough Google to make them interesting) would shoot, stuff, mount and consign to the garage any particular thing in Silliman’s longevity-bloated oeuvre. Which is not to say I’m a great POOET; it’s to say I’m not, but I’m better at it than the soi-disant POOETREE CZAR Ron Silliman. (File this paragraph under DRIVEN TO TACKY BRAGGADOCIO BY EXASPERATION.  All hate letters will be published without editorial comment or editing.)

“poem” from the mentioned series of mine:

Malena’s Good Luck New Year’s Rabbit Stew


-Cada uno lleva su cruz-


skinning the rabbit, ted inverts
the inverted glove until the long
hand of muscle falls from its grip
of loose blood, clutching the grin
of this morning’s funniest
execution. slain by the sling ted’d made
of malena’s old hose, the bunny tumbled
with its fate-stone thrown
clear through dark bush to
headlighted street, ted waving
traffic to a halt to retrieve it
by deafwarm ears to malena
and dante’s cheering as for
a goal. the dawn dome
of planetarium rose
to a glow by sun’s flush
hole as they bore the corpse
like some world-leader with
eyes struck open

ted knifes the belly, scoops
its coils and jellies in a system
to the sink, the other two toasting
long life/short death as ted
decouples the head’s last
link. dante jumps

(he will always claim)
(the thing)


the candled air of the whole long flat
rubs the windows with its sweat:
ginger, clove and cardomon escaping the pot
towards the black rhyme of ted and malena’s hair
ted’s elbows on the table and dante’s perplexing
stare in the ruby swirl of wine malena’s got
she tells of the trouble with men and dante says
we know a willing lesbian
she shakes her head: i need something i can sink
these teeth into (with a wink)
hefting her breasts in the low-cut dress she jokes
what about these? don’t you ever miss them
on a winter’s night?
dante frowns i swear i even eschewed huge dugs as a whelp
i would not suck at mother’s milk
and father’s mams were black with glossy felt, he giggles
at ted who growls: not while i’m eating
malena says Cocho kept peacocks when i was thirteen
they would not breed, which made them twice
precious, bleating in the courtyard even earlier
than those ugly cocks, casting spectacular shadows like
beardsley engravings on the opaline gravel around
the villa, occasional prey to a fox our indian shot
presenting it to mother who wore it
to the opera like a (draining her wineglass)
(with seductive indolence)


driven by the spirit of the rabbit or by
the devil possessed, ted proposes a
contest: whoever kisses best
will follow ted to bed whilst the other
does dishes. dante hisses
you bitches and kisses
malena on the mouth, vomitting
chilean flags and

My excuse being that I never expect respect or pussy or cash for it. I made it, it’s there; I moved on. Shouldn’t that be on every POOET’S lapel/letterhead/headstone? If it were, I might begin to like them. I might even buy one lunch.

-I made it, it’s there; I moved on.™

To wrap now with another POOUHM of Silliman’s. Any number (ten Haverfords worth?) of beret-wearing sophomores have approximated this POOUHM, over the years, with slightly worse, or slightly better, results.

the nose of kim darby’s double

Canyons, paths
dug thru the snow
the walls as high as
The weight of it
when it begins to melt
& then, at sunset
still midafternoon
the temperature drops
wind over the ridge
so that by dawn
each surface
hardens into ice

Dams clog the drains
to turn the window
facing north
into a waterfall . . .

Driving north
past the mall turn, King
of Prussia, past Bridgeport
and the narrow brick streets of Norr’stown
the road eases up, what
was once country
into a more purely rural
suburbiana (golf course
blanketed in white

A gas station that has not yet
turned into a minmart

Swath cut
by the powerlines
right thru the old quarry, the pit
filled with water
is called a lake, each
new townhouse with its private dock
tho if you look upstairs
you will discover the doors to the closets
all made of vinyl

Someone in another room is singing the alphabet

Barely visible in the high slush
fog mixed with rain
a woman waits for her bus

The form of the flower
petals dropping away
to reveal a new, further flower
now red, now blue
each shape a perpetual
revision, this
leaf thick and milky, this
spiky, hard, this
covered with the finest fuzz

In his dream the boy
has dug a maze through the snow
complex, magnificent
that his parents want to dig up
(At four, to identify
the tension of generations

Glow threading
thru the woods at night,
headlights from an auto

Gamuk is kissing Ganuganuga

Resolution protocol:
song of a dot matrix printer

Casting text
across the listserv,
I write
until the first sight of sun
triggers morning’s hunger,
voices echo elsewhere in the house

in the form of
a sheep, black,
Dinosaur constructed
from wire and beads

A pennywhistle lies on the rug

Thru the poplars
just enough light
to cast the first silhouette.

A pennywhistle, a rug. The self-obsessed author of this vertical typography thought that by merely being touched by his magical mind, the banal substance of the material would transmute into beauty, feeling, meaning.


POOETREE is the pyramid scheme of modern Belles-Lettres. Silliman has thousands of readers who only read him because they want to become Sillimans; does anyone who doesn’t have a manuscript of Silliman-like vertical typography to hawk… read Silliman? As with all Ponzi cons, the trick is getting in early.

You did not get in early.

Buy a kiln.

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  • By CITIZEN-EDITOR | THE IMPERIALIST on October 3, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    […] Quite some time ago, I decided to improve a Billy Collins pome, in order to illustrate the complacency and torpor afflicting the current practice of this degraded craft; or perhaps it was for the fun of it. Not that I’m not also making a serious point about the supreme requirement of word-choice re: pooetree. […]

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