The new British sentence because I am arguing against the provocative
opening of Ron Silliman’s 1979 essay ‘The New Sentence’,
where he writes: ‘I am going to make an argument, that there is such
a thing as a new sentence and that it occurs thus far more or less
exclusively in the prose of the Bay Area’.1 San Francisco is the site,
and the activity justified is the American prose poem since the 1970s.
For Silliman, neither the French prose poem, nor the Surrealist variant
of it, are true new sentences. The American new sentence has no
horizons beyond itself, and cannot in consequence be explicated
according to any ‘“higher order” of meaning’ (92) such as narrative
and character. It has, he says, evolved ‘in something less than a
decade, throughout an entire poetic community’ (93). I do not disbelieve
in the New American Sentence. Indeed, I believe in it
passionately, not least because it offers a model through which something
related but distinct can be discovered in British writing.