Silliman sees his poetry as being part of a single poem or lifework, which he calls Ketjak. Ketjak is also the name of the first poem of The Age of Huts. If and when completed, the entire work will consist of The Age of Huts (1974-1980), Tjanting (1979-1981), The Alphabet (1979-2004), and Universe (2005-).
Ron Silliman's fame and notoriety have grown considerably since 2002, due in large part to his popular and controversial weblog: Silliman's Blog Debuting on August 29, 2002 to little fanfare and without expectations of an audience, it is now (arguably) the most influential English-language blog on the web that is devoted to contemporary poetry and poetics. By August 2006, Silliman's Blog had reached 800,000 hits. By early November 2006, Silliman's Blog had welcomed its 900,000th visitor. In early February 2007, Silliman's Blog had surpassed 1,000,000 hits. By the end of February 2008, Silliman observed on his blog that the "1,500,000th visitor will click on through."
Silliman has worked as a political organizer, a lobbyist, an ethnographer, a newspaper editor, a director of development, lead plaintiff, and as the executive editor of the Socialist Review. While in San Francisco, he served on numerous community boards including the 1980 Census Oversight Committee, the Arson Task Force of the San Francisco Fire Department, and the State Department of Health's Task Force on Health Conditions in Locale Detention Facilities. After living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years, Silliman moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1995 where he resides with his wife Krishna and two sons, Colin and Jesse. Silliman works as a market analyst in the computer industry.
Silliman was a 2003 Literary fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts & a 2002 Fellow of the Pennsylvania Arts Council as well as a Pew Fellow in the Arts in 1998. Silliman is one of the poets memorialized in Berkeley's Addison Anthology, a walk containing plaques recognizing poets and authors in his home town.
Silliman edited a newsletter, Tottels (1970-81), that was one of the early venues for Language Poetry. However, it was "The Dwelling Place," a feature of nine poets that Silliman did for Alcheringa in 1975 that Silliman himself describes as his "first attempt to write about language poetry". In 1976 & '77, he co-curated a reading series with Tom Mandel, at the Grand Piano, a coffee house in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, continuing a series originally founded by Barrett Watten. This series was followed by one at the Tassajara Bakery, co-curated with Bob Perelman, and a series combining poets with performance artists at The Farm, co-curated with Jill Scott.
Silliman's mature critical writing dates to the early/mid-1970s when he was asked to discuss his thinking about the role of reference in poetry, leading to the essay "Disappearance of the Author, Appearance of the World," which first appeared in the journal Art Con. Soon thereafter he edited a special issue of the magazine Margins devoted to the work of poet Clark Coolidge and began to give talks and contribute essays on a regular basis thereafter. As was mentioned above, Silliman was influenced by (and subsequently has written extensively on) the "New American Poetry", referring to the poets who first appeared in Donald Allen's groundbreaking anthology The New American Poetry 1945-1960. Today, those same (but then relatively unknown) poets included in this anthology are now recognizable or precedent figures in the current cultural landscape.
As a result of his critical work since the 1970s, several of the concepts introduced by Silliman, such as The New Sentence, the School of Quietude and post-avant have become widely used. .In 1986, Silliman's anthology In the American Tree, one of the foremost collections of American language poetry, was published by the National Poetry Foundation.