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The Scrambler
Ron Silliman's Ketjak
from The Age of Huts (compleat) 2007
a micro review by J. Spencer
Like Gertrude Stein, Silliman is concerned with space on the page- the way
words fit in a sentence, the way sentences fit into paragraphs and the way
paragraphs fit in a section.
Ketjak is arranged as a series of paragraphs that
start small and grow larger as the manuscript nears it's end.

Phrases scattered throughout the first 5 pages act as anchors for the rest of
the text. These numerous anchor sentences keep showing up throughout
the text. As and after most of the anchor sentences are established, Silliman
then proceeds to fill the space between the anchor sentences with a bunch of
seemingly disconnected other sentences. Each of these other sentences are
attached and indeed connected to a specific anchor sentence, a fact you may
not notice until you near the end of the poem.

As you progress through the growing sections of
Ketjak, it seems as though
each sentence contains words specific to itself, giving the illusion that those
words are not found anywhere else throughout the rest of the poem. That
effect is where the uniqueness and originality of Silliman's voice shines.


How about imagining the poem another way, as a bag of microwave popcorn:

Anchor sentences=the kernals
Other non-anchor sentences=the popped white part of popcorn
Actual book pages=the microwave
Space on book pages=the heat from microwave
Language or the words=the butter and salt

So then, the microwave (the book's pages) provides the heat (space) for the
kernals (anchor sentences) to become popped (other non-anchor
sentences). And eating the popcorn (reading the poem) is enhanced by the
butter and salt flavoring (words, language used within the sentences).
"If it were to be explained simply, would it be anymore clear."
Ketjak, p.101