"Writing itself is a form of action" (Ron Silliman. The New Sentence 4)
"My theme probably has most to do with a very strong feeling that telling stories actually has an effect on the world, and that a relation is achieved between the one telling those stories and her or his audience and history" (Bruce Boone. Century of Clouds 42).
My talk sketches out two particular writing strategies developed in the 1970s in the San Francisco Bay Area: New Narrative as developed by Robert Glück and Bruce Boone; and Ron Silliman's New Sentence. Both of these projects were critical of the poetic practice of their day and aimed to produce writing that related to the social and political world. Glück and Boone posited narrative as a way for writing to participate in community, to address social subjects with bodies. Ron Silliman constructed the New Sentence and a practice of labor for intervening in capitalism's stranglehold on language. Silliman advocated a turn away from a speech-based poetics, the individual and subject, while he retained the New Left's focus on labor and class as an organizing framework. Silliman's is a poetics of assertion and confidence, yet, despite his turn away from a focus on the individual lyric "I," his texts often want it both ways, unwittingly reinscribing, only to make them disappear, textual subjects of discourse. Glück and Boone, two gay writers, proposed New Narrative as a means for tracking the uncertain discontinuities between ideologies, communities, indviduals, and subjects who have bodies on the line. Ultimately these contestatory writing practices share similar goals but propose differing politics and literary forms.