A Comparative Study of Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian - ReadScholars

A Comparative Study of Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian

A Comparative Study of Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian

A few 'Schools of Thought' in the world of poetry are still a mystery to everyone. Some believe that a poem should be structured and follow a specific form (for pleasure), while others believe poetry should be experimental and break all traditional writing rules. Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian are poetspoets who believe in experimenting. Although their works belong to the same line of thought, there are differences in their forms of expression. This research article explains how two poets can be similar or different in the same school of thought. We will try to discover the similarities and differences between Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian, their life, and their works. We will examine their approaches to poetry. In conclusion, we will be able to understand postmodern writers and the purpose of their writing through a comparative study of two postmodern poems.

Ron Silliman

Ron Silliman's style of poetry is known for his innovative techniques, such as "New Sentence," which creates sentences without traditional grammatical structure. Her work is often characterized by its emphasis on language as an object rather than a tool of communication. Silliman's poetry is also known for using long works, such as his 219-page poem "The Alphabet." Ron Silliman is well known for his work on "The New Sentence," in which he explains how language should be used by breaking the norms of typical grammatical rules. Words matter more in this respect. According to Silliman, "The new sentence is an independent unit, without causal or temporal link with the sentences which precede or follow it. Their meaning depends on the larger paragraph.

Lyn Hejinian

A focus on language also characterizes Lyn Hejinian's style of poetry as a material form. His work often experiments with syntax and narrative structure, and he is known for incorporating political and social commentary into his poetry. Hejinian's most famous work, "My Life," is a prose poem that explores the connections between language and personal experience. Hejinian returned to Berkeley, where he co-founded the journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E with Charles Bernstein. She employed language under the aegis of the new phrase presented by Ron Silliman but also expressed her feelings through her own experiences. She draws inspiration from her life and appreciates that readers seek individuality and new ways to appreciate the absurdity of life with the help of the past. She believed in the power of a single world with multiple meanings.

Comparison with textual references

Other themes that both poets have addressed include time, memory, and identity. In particular, both poets have written about how our memories can shape our sense of self. This is something that Hejinian explores in her poem "A Memor," while Silliman addresses it more indirectly in his poem "red shift 7-12-00". Ultimately, these poems show how our past experiences can continue to influence us long after they've ended.

To understand the similarities and differences, it is better to analyze one poem of each poet side by side. For that purpose, the researcher will select a poem from his collection of poems, 'Crow' by Ron Silliman, which will be compared with 'Ponderable' by Lyn Hejinian;

Ain't nobody

can write this…

            big black fat cat


               at the white Jeep

                                         How, how

horse's neck!

The window is not as clear as I'd like to think

webs on the margin

                               But summer, Dad!

                               like that!

            right in the gutter the


            tennis ball

bearing fruit fruit fruit?

First, if we look at the form and structure of the poem, the poem does not follow any rhyming scheme. There are no stanzas. Instead, someone had tried to write the words in a proper sentence form, but due to the loss in the thought process, the poet left many gaps, shifting from one line to another. The gaps and spaces indicate that the poet wanted to write more but broke the flow of the thought process with the help of an Ellipsis. This also shows that the poet's thoughts are still continued. He may be thinking, or he wants the reader to think as well, along with him.

The language or the diction of the poem is simple. In a few places, the poet has tried to follow the grammatical rules, capitalizing the first words when a new (imaginary) stanza starts. The way the poet has given spaces and gaps between the lines and phrases shows that the gaps were meant to be filled. The rules are being exploited when there is a shift from one phrase or line to another. The poet has used punctuation marks as well.

It seems like the poet has tried to use a few literary devices, such as; Imagery, Motif, and Simile, but it seems like the poet has not used these literary devices for the sake of beautification or to follow the traditional ways of writing, but the purpose was to break away for the traditional norms. Random objects (jeep, gutter, tennis ball), colors (white, black), and animals (cat, horse) have been mentioned, and it seems like many activities were in process in his surroundings, and the poet is trying to jolt down all of these images in a hurry, leaving the gaps and spaces to complete them later. This also hints at the chaos, the confusion. This is the reason why not even a single idea has been completed in the poem.

The tone of the poem changes throughout the poem. It is hard to tell if he is happy, sad, excited, or shocked. The ending, however, shows confusion or a question left for the readers to ponder. These images, in the form of words, might also be faded memories of the past in the poet's mind, and he is trying to memorize them, but what he gets are many fragmented images.

The motif technique is used twice in the poem (How, how, and fruit?), which again is a notion that the poet is trying to gain the attention of the readers to emphasize those words and interpret the hidden meanings.

With the least use of words and less poetic creativity, the poet still needs to convey many ideas in a fragmented form. The first line, 'Aint nobody…can write this,' might highlight that expressing ideas in such a manner is not everyone's cup of tea. By writing this poem, he is making a difference. Many juxtaposing thoughts and words may have many more meanings apart from the literal ones. The line' big black fat cat' has no commas between them. When you read this phrase, there is a certain flow. The double B's in 'big black' give the same effect of alliteration, and the rhyming words keep the flow alive. This cat might be symbolic of danger and chaos as it is one of the common myths as well that a black cat is associated with the bad omen, and the ghost appears in the shape of a black cat. There is also a contrast between a black cat and a 'white jeep.' The cat is lazy in a white jeep. White is the color of purity and goodness. The black cat might be the symbol of old traditions and notions, and the white jeep might be the symbol of modernity. But both are discussed together, which might indicate the presence of both the old and the new styles intermingled, causing confusion and chaos.

We can also see the mention of Dad with an exclamation mark. Either he is excited, or he is angry in this expression. But, the mentioning of 'dad' and 'summer might be a sign of hope or a memory associated with summer that he would have spent with his dad in the past.

Hence, even a single word can have many interpretations. There can also be many themes: a shift from past to present times, the chaos of the Postmodern times, and memories of the past to construct new meaning, etc. From the very beginning of the poem, Ponderable, we can see that many words have been used in a line.

The pine branches reach—the rain! the sun! the edge of the

        moving air! three goats!

Lyn Hejinian to has taken care of the grammar. Again, she saw many things from her surroundings, or maybe these were the random images from her memories that had been jolted down before the thought slipped away. The objects that are mentioned are part of the natural world. For example, the sun or the three goats. Although the poet has not used any literary device in particular, this line can still create a beautiful image in the minds of readers.

Girls on razor scooters turn the corner and scoot.

But, immediately in the next line, we see a juxtaposed image of girls riding scooters. We see a shift from a natural world to an advanced world. The mention of 'girls on razor scooters' suggests a shift from traditional lifestyles to modernity.

I sacrifice hearing for writing, and I return to the back of the train

Surrounded by nothing but tattered island nasturtia, 

The poetess uses intense visual imagery. The use of the pronoun 'I,' which has also been capitalized, increases the importance of its use. 'I' shatters all gender-biased identities. 'I' can be used by any male or female. 'I'defines an individual. Here too, the poet has sacrificed 'hearing' (the identity that was defined by society) to 'writing' (the freedom of expression of an individual). What the writer means to say is that she became a rebellious person, and she opted to write her thoughts and her feelings. This is a very feminist and modern stance given by Lyn Hejinian. Although, her 'return to the back of the train surrounded by nothing but a tattered island might also mean looking back at the past only to see chaos in the form of war. The 'tattered island might also mean the fragmented memories and how she is taking the help of those memories to construct innovative ideas.

Yuki, Felicia, and Maxwell have between them $13.75, and they

        are hungry as they enter the small café, where they see a

        display of pies and decide to spend all their money on pie

        there and then—how much pie will each get to eat if

        each pie costs $5.25. (Hejinian)

This might refer to the industrial change or the overall condition of humankind and how wars brought loss. Only the rich benefited, and the poor still had to struggle. Money has been mentioned in digits with a dollar showing modernity and the grudges of postmodern times. The mention of 'café' again shows modernity. The question mark at the end of these lines is again a question that is meant to be interpreted by the reader, what does the poet want the readers to ponder upon? The poet uses the long dashes to give gaps or spaces instead of actually leaving the spaces between the lines. Maybe the use of long dashes is an indication of continuity or connected ideas.

Invincible is my myopia, great is my waist, choral are my ideas,

wingéd are my eyebrows, deep is my obscurity—who am I? (Hejinian)

She again dives into the world of creativity. She picks up many imaginative words and forms sentences conveying many ideas. The use of the determiner' my' again is a neutral word. It can be used by any man or woman. Here, she is appreciating her poetry which is like an enchanting lady. Here, the poet is personifying language poetry as a lady. The end of the poem is again a question posed by her; 'who am I?' she questions her identity, and this is what every human being questions as well. But the poet is also talking about how her poetry defines her true identity, yet she is not sure about her identity. Perhaps, as a woman, she is stuck between an identity defined by society and one that defines herself. She wants the readers to question themselves, choose their identity, and define their meanings.


While Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian are essential poets in the Language poetry movement, they have very different writing styles. Silliman is known for his long, dense poems that often use repetitive language to create a sense of rhythm. He uses fewer words and more straightforward diction. Yet, he makes a difference from the traditional poets. Hejinian, on the other hand, is known for her shorter, more experimental poems that often explore themes of memory and language. She uses literary devices, a diction that is flowery and intensely graphic imagination through the use of language.

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