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“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.

Margaret Soltan, March 31, 2009 4:32PM
Posted in: protect yourself from bad poetry

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7 Responses to ““It’s a pathetic field we’re in.””

  1. RJO Says:

    Does UD or anyone else remember a poem by … somebody famous – Kipling? — that ironically comments on literary theft. Something along the lines of, "I do like Shakespeare an’ Homer, and what I likes I takes…." I read it years ago and have never been able to remember enough of it to find it by a search.

  2. Stuart Says:

    when appropriate I appropriate

  3. Christopher Vilmar Says:

    "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different."

  4. meteechart Says:

    Is this what Dada looks like in a post-ironic age?

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Exactly, meteechart. And I don’t even say he’s doing it very well or very intelligently. But someone’s got to do it. His denunciation of what creativity has become is a breath of fresh Arp.

  6. Mark Says:

    "Breath of fresh Arp," indeed. Here’s what I show my "creative" writing seminars:


    Good for about the 1st half hour, then lags somewhat after…

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I’ve gotten about fifteen minutes in. It’s weird to me the way the guy looks JUST like David, my ‘thesdan playmate, circa 1971… Anyway, I’m enjoying it, and I’m glad you sent it… The other funny thing : I agree with their attack on evil therapeutic creative writing, but the Language poetry they’re offering instead doesn’t do much for me… I actually don’t think their dismissal of major American poets is fair — John Ashbery??

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