PJAS 11 Autumn-4

Tadeusz Pióro
Autobiography and the Politics and Aesthetics of Language Writing
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 11 (Autumn 2017), pp. 303-310


The article begins with a description of The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, which was written by ten Language poets from San Francisco, focusing on the paradoxes implied by “collective autobiography.” It then proceeds to close readings of three contributions to this work, by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian, examining the relations between poetics, politics, gender and ideology their texts bring to the fore. Harryman anecdotally describes her critical stance towards the Romantic lyric and its enduring influence on some avant-garde American poets (Robert Creeley is the victim in question), while Hejinian, combining personal reminiscences of political protest with attempts at situating it within a tradition of critical thought, from Adorno through Said to Debord, makes a case for the relevance of Language writing to a future remaking of the polis. The article is, in the main, descriptive, not critical or polemical; the only doubt I voice in it concerns the difficulty involved in reading Language poems and the uncertain status of pleasure such difficulty implies, for surely it is for the sake of future pleasures we would like to have the polis reinvented, or at least improved?

Keywords: Language Writing, San Francisco Language Poets, (Collective) Autobiography, Aesthetics/Politics, Gender Politics, UC Berkeley strike 2009, Robert Creeley, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, The Grand Piano coffeehouse, San Francisco

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.11/2/2017.04

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