In the American Tree

Ron Silliman's anthology of language poetry, In the American Tree, takes its curatorial cue from a group of poets in the early 1970s who were interested in "rejecting a speech-based poetics and consciously raising the issue of reference" in order to understand "what a poem is actually made of . . . language itself."

Originally published in 1986, this anthology was reissued in 2002 and remains one of the foremost collections of American language poetry. The book is divided into three sections: "West," which includes west-coast poets Lyn Heijinian, Michael Palmer, Rae Armantrout, and David Bromige; "East," including Susan Howe, Clark Coolidge, Bernadette Mayer, and Charles Bernstein; and "The Second Front," which collects essays on poetics.

Michael Palmer, Charles Bernstein, Bernadette Mayer and Hannah Weiner are just a few of the poets included in the anthology. Susan Howe's "from Pythagorean Silence" is one of the poems included:

age of earth and us all chattering

a sentence     or character

steps out to seek for truth     fails

into a stream of ink          Sequence
trails off

Another volume in the same vein as Silliman's anthology is From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990. Edited by Douglas Messerli, this anthology is an excellent companion to In the American Tree.