Language poetry isn’t my favorite style, but Whale Cloth Press has done a terrific job of putting it online, with two books by Kit Robinson (check out the varied presentations of the poems from Windows, with mouseover texts for certain stanzas of “All Fours” and the gorgeous gray background for “Speaking Peoples”) and Robert Grenier’s Sentences, which Ron Silliman (from whom this link comes) considers one of American poetry’s “essential texts.” He singles out for notice a poem that reads, in its entirety:


You may find that a bit too simple, but here’s Ron’s take on it:

One could hardly find, or even imagine, a simpler text, yet it undermines everything people know or, worse, have learned, about titles, repetition, rhyme, naming, immanence. If we read it as challenging the status of the title, then on a second level it is the most completely rhymed poem conceivable. & vice versa. As language, this is actually quite beautiful in a plainspoken manner, the two words hovering without ever resolving into a static balance, never fully title & text, nor call & response, neither the hierarchy of naming nor parataxis of rhyme.

And here’s a passage I like, from Robinson’s “Speaking Peoples”:

what left fissures in the lives of the English
speaking peoples? Slowly they came
to discover the secret call of every creature
in the forest, the signature of each leaf
and stepped about on a plain of high grasses
where birds were. Above us the sun
follows perfectly, by force of habit. Years
a shell game. Low clouds part to reveal a grid
water in a coke bottle with sprinkler top
memory planted their feet in the dance
box step. Courtship parallels slope of roof
hair on the back of your neck. Song
praise plaint truth struggle hustle settlement
of all we’ve known. Notes stride in
the throat, walk with me. A clip-
on tie is wrought. Any city afterlife
can come south on the color, no.
Tunes on end, rhythm solves the puzzle, space
no product masters can conquer. Meaning thrives
this time, a lack bemoaned by those
who follow old scripts to the letter. Change is
upon the land…

Update (May 2024). Whale Cloth Press is long gone (I’ve substituted archived links in the post); Kyle Schlesinger wrote about it here. And there’s a nice online edition of Robert Grenier’s Sentences here; you can see images of the original publication here.


  1. the thumpa poem he mentions later on reminds me of hugo ball, is he a lost father of this kind of poet ?

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