Kenneth Goldsmith has an essay in a recent issue of Poetry called “I Look to Theory Only When I Realize That Somebody Has Dedicated Their Entire Life to a Question I Have Only Fleetingly Considered.” It is in the form of one and two line comments, with an occasional paragraph thrown in. The topic is art, particularly poetry, and modern internet culture. I should say the topics are, among other things, poetry and the internet. The statements vary widely. The essay is 14 ½ pages long. Among the one liners are these:
”Sampling and citation are but boutique forms of appropriation.”
“Remixing is often mistaken for appropriation.”
So I’m calling this “remixing” because he makes it sound better. But I’m really picking a few statements to comment on.
He writes, ”If you’re not making art with the intention of having it copied, you’re not really making art for the twenty-first century.”
So I think he would approve of this copying of his words. Though this is not copying. True copying would be reblogging, a favorite way of circulating material on the internet.
In a similar vein, many pages later, he writes: “When the art world can produce something as compelling as Twitter, we’ll start paying attention to it again.” Who is this “we”? He’s already paying attention to what he says isn’t working, is he not?
“All language presenting itself as new is recycled. No word is virginal; no word is innocent.” Well, duh! If words didn’t have histories how could we (my “we” is myself and you, the reader, here) use them to communicate. Consider the failure of created languages. When did you last read about Esperanto?
“Poetry as we know it―the penning of sonnets or free verse on a printed page― feels more akin to the practice of throwing pottery or weaving [sic] quilts, artisanal activities that continue in spite of their marginality and cultural irrelevance.” I guess there’s no way to know how many bloggers are drinking artisanal coffee in hand-crafted mugs while they write their posts. These are certainly not separate sets. And as for piecing quilts, this activity seems continually to fold up and spread out again, like fabric over a bed.
He’s made a very gender-biased statement. More women than men quilt. Do more women than men care what mugs they drink from? Has anyone figured out the ratio of men to women in the blogosphere? Do more men or more women spend time putting their ideas out in cyberspace?
Enough. I cut this essay from the magazine hoping to find poems out of playing with his 14 ½ pages of language about language and art. Maybe not: too much theory.