Introductions for Doug Lang & Ron Silliman

Doug Lang was born and raised in Wales, and has published poetry and novels in the UK. He moved to Washington DC in 1973, where he ran the Folio Reading Series in the late 1970s, and where he has taught writing at the Corcoran College of Art and Design since 1976. He represented DC at the recent Poetry of the 1970s conference at Orono, Maine. A collection of his selected poems, In the Works, is forthcoming from Edge Books. His works include Magic Fire Chevrolet (Titanic Books 1980), Hot Shot (Jawbone press), Lumbering and Tingling: Sonnets (1989), and Horror Vacui (1991).

I have been waiting for this day, to host Doug at the Poetry Project, since I first met and read with him in DC several years ago, and enjoyed the company of a community where he is integral and even revered. I was stunned by his work, that I had never read it before, and that when I came back to NYC talking him up, a lot of people were like Oh ya, Doug is GREAT. I’m not going to be too hard on myself. His books are hard to find and his collected In the Works, is still in the works – so the optimal thing for the Doug Lang fan to do is to see him

live. I’ve been thinking a lot about the poem’s ability to alter our perception of time, and one thing that impresses me is that Doug’s poems don’t play with pace as much as they are delivered as pure energy. Past present and future aren’t part of his measuring system. The poem is the sequencer of events, and throws the intervals between them into the realm of our own bodies: “Everything I’ve ever imagined / Is in this room.” It’s a room where you can walk out “but your / Reflection will still be there in the mirror looking like, ‘What the Fuck?’” Please give a warm welcome to Doug Lang.

Ron Silliman has written and edited over 30 books, and had his poetry and criticism translated into 12 languages. In the past 18 months, his work has appeared in Poetry, The Nation, and a Fact-Simile trading card. His sculpture, Poetry (Bury Neon), was unveiled at this year’s Text Festival and will be installed permanently in the transit center of Bury, Lancashire, this fall. Silliman’s Blog has received over 3 million visits & he’s maxed out on permissible Facebook Friends.  In 2012, he will be a Kelly Writers House Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

I usually don’t write introductions through the lens of my personal experiences with the poets but I had such memorable 1st encounters with both Ron and Doug that when I sat down this afternoon to write this is just what happened. So, I met Ron when we read together in Chicago in 2003 and I remember our host making a comment in his introduction that we had nothing in common as writers, and people laughed. Well, Ron didn’t feel that way at all (nor did I) and let the audience know. I mention this incident because I can’t think of another poet whose sense of his or her potential as a writer is more panoptic. He uses that word in an interview with Leonard Schwartz when he speaks, in general, about writing long poems where the work is sustained over decades and, specifically to his 1,000+ page book, The Alphabet. He’s invested in the act of writing, and the effects that occur over time. As a younger writer also interested in long works, I felt liberated by his belief, articulated in his short essay “Wild Form,” that the act of writing could make clear its own structure and that the poem didn’t need to adhere to even it’s own conception of form throughout – form should indeed be a generative function and a way to record and not falsify a life. Please welcome Ron Silliman to the Poetry Project.