The Grand Piano

San Francisco 1975–80

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About The Grand Piano

The Grand Piano is a collaborative autobiography by ten poets. Centered on the rise of Language poetry in San Francisco in the second half of the 1970s, the project explores a wide range of issues in poetics and the lives of poets — then and now.

The Grand Piano was written over a decade of close collaboration by Rae Armantrout, Steve Benson, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Tom Mandel, Ted Pearson, Bob Perelman, Kit Robinson, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten. An eleventh pianist, Alan Bernheimer, took the lead in organizing project documentation.

Of course the authors were not the sole creators of what came to be called Language Poetry. Many other Bay Area poets might have taken part in The Grand Piano, and the authors' contemporaries in New York, Washington DC, and other places where new poetry emerged in the 1970s also might have undertaken a collaborative project of this scale. Perhaps some still will.

If so, however, the work will demand a substantial commitment of energy and to one another. The Grand Piano's authors worked together via a listserv whose archive contains tens of thousands of emails that document the depth and intensity of collective effort this project entailed.

The Grand Piano takes its name from a legendary San Francisco coffeehouse where the project's authors programmed, coordinated and participated in a reading and performance series from 1976 to 1979.