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The Academy of American Poets blog features an interview with Kenneth Goldsmith, spokesperson for the conceptual poetry movement. Don’t know what that is? Then this conversation is for you. It starts off:
Poets.org: How would you explain conceptual poetry to a younger audience unfamiliar with the tenets of conceptual art?
Kenneth Goldsmith: The best thing about conceptual poetry is that it doesn’t need to be read. You don’t have to read it. As a matter of fact, you can write books, and you don’t even have to read them. My books, for example, are unreadable.
Sounds good to us—we’ve been looking for ways to save time. Goldsmith explains:
All you need to know [about my books] is the concept behind them. Here’s every word I spoke for a week. Here’s a year’s worth of weather reports…and without ever having to read these things, you understand them. So, in a weird way, if you get the concept—which should be put out in front of the book—then you get the book, and you don’t even have to read it. They’re better to talk about than they are to read.
So we won’t just save time—we’ll be a hit at cocktail parties! But Mr. Goldsmith (we may be thinking), what about “originality”? He goes on:
It’s not about inventing anything new; it’s about finding things that exist and reframing them and representing them as original texts. The choice of what you’re presenting is more interesting than the thing that you’re presenting. You’re not evaluated on the writing or what’s on the page; you’re evaluated on the thought process that comes before ‘pen is set to paper,’ so to speak.
To read the full conversation, which touches on conceptualism’s roots and shoots—and to give that snapshot of Goldsmith the attention it deserves—click here.