March 31st, 2009
“It’s a pathetic field we’re in.”

From Temple News.

Plagiarism is never tolerated. But for poet Kenneth Goldsmith, it is always on the tip of his tongue.

“You should go steal questions from other interviews,” Goldsmith said. “I’ve got a thousand interviews online. Seriously, take the best one, and put your name on it.”

It’s not the most common advice, especially from a college professor, but in Goldsmith’s class at the University of Pennsylvania, students are directed to transcribe, plagiarize, thieve and appropriate, all in the name of learning to write.

And his works are no different.

“The old type of creativity really isn’t very interesting,” Goldsmith said. “So by being uncreative, you form a new type of creativity.”

“His approach to teaching is completely bizarre and pisses a lot of people off, including his students,” said Nick Salvatore, one of Goldsmith’s former students. “But by the end, everybody is really happy with it.”

… He’s just finished reciting a police interview and singing misunderstood lyrics at Temple University Center City campus as part of the university’s Poets & Writers series. It’s all part of the process he calls “uncreative writing.”

“If you look around at what’s held up as creative, most of the time it really isn’t,” Goldsmith said. “I don’t want to be that. I wasn’t always uncreative. I tried to be creative like everyone else. I failed. But it’s the failures that make things happen.”

And things have certainly happened.

Goldsmith is the author of 10 books of poetry. His most recent work is unofficially titled American Trilogy. It consists of “The Weather, Traffic and Sports,” which are respective transcriptions of a year’s worth of radio weather reports, a 24-hour traffic cycle and the radio broadcast of a Yankees game with the ads included.

Other works include a transcription of every word he spoke over the span of a week, every move he made throughout a 24-hour period and the retyping of every character from an August edition of the New York Times into a 900-page book.

… When he’s not stealing others’ words, Goldsmith works on his other projects. Goldsmith is the founding editor of UbuWeb, an online archive of all things avant-garde. He is also the host of a weekly radio show on New York City’s WFMU-FM and a senior editor of PennSound, an online poetry archive.

“Look how easy it is to make a mark in literature,” Goldsmith said. “It’s a pathetic field we’re in.” …

You go, boy.

January 21st, 2009
Adam Kirsch on the Inaugural Poem

Elizabeth Alexander’s inaugural poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” …failed to live up to the standard of public, official verse. … The contemporary poet who set[s] out to write an official occasional poem … gives up the privacy in which modern poetry is born, without gaining the authority and currency that used to be the advantages of the poet laureate in Rome or England. Her verse is not public but bureaucratic–that is to say, spoken by no one and addressed to no one…

“Praise Song for the Day,” the poem Elizabeth Alexander read this afternoon, was a perfect specimen of this kind of bureaucratic verse. … [The] weakness of Alexander’s work is precisely its consciousness of obligation. Her poetic superego leads her to affirm piously, rather than question or challenge. … [Her poetry is] public in the worst sense–inauthentic, bureaucratic, rhetorical. So it was no surprise to hear Alexander begin her poem … with a cliché (“Each day we go about our business”), before going on to tell the nation “I know there’s something better down the road”; and pose the knotty question, “What if the mightiest word is ‘love’?”; and conclude with a classic instance of elegant variation: “on the brink, on the brim, on the cusp.” The poem’s argument was as hard to remember as its language; it dissolved at once into the circumambient solemnity…

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