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Cool Cool, Little Dinosaur (Goldsmith Infinite Redux: Magna Carta…Holy Grail)

By Nick Twemlow

So, Kenneth Goldsmith got the stamp of approval from Dwight Garner and the New York Times. This rave in such a valuable piece of literary real estate will piss off a lot of people, which is precisely what Goldsmith likes to do (though, given his White House reading, paid appearance at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, laureateship at MOMA, job at Penn, and so forth, it’s become difficult to differentiate Goldsmith from any kind of Establishment. I suspect he spends most of his time working angles to stay ahead of this increasingly narrow gap between himself and the objects of his stunts/pranks. Lots of mirror time, modeling pinstripes & bow ties!). This review is a sort of capstone to Goldsmith’s relentless public relations campaign for his brand of Uncreative Writing (perhaps his reading at the White House runs parallel in import, but that happened two years ago, and that’s a long damn time for anything to have happened and remain relevant, so thus it’s fossilized and therefore, irrelevant.).

blah, blah, blah

But I’m not here to talk about the yawn-inducing infighting in the poetry world. Michael Robbins pretty much closed the door on all this with his recent review of Paul Hoover’Norton Postmodern Anthology, Second Edition, in Poetry. The review is too short to be comprehensive, but can we just send a link to it to the next person considering writing a few thousand words on the chasm between Official Verse Culture and whatever name we want to use for the other side? Go write a poem! Occupy a bank! Prep your checklist for Yaddo! Take your meds! Call your mother!

What goes missing almost entirely from any talk about Goldsmith (and damn if the dude doesn’t generate heat; he must be the most discussed poet who ever walked this earth whose writing nobody has ever read!) is the “fairly” radical work he does with copyright and intellectual property (I put quotation marks around ‘fairly’ because, while what Goldsmith does with his own “uncreative” writing and his “editorial” work at UbuWeb approaches the hardcore, it falls short of what I think of as truly radical work; after all, pace Goldsmith himself,

There are two worlds: the official world of publishing and the unofficial world of poetry. I live in both. And I play by the rules in both according to what world I happen to be in at the given moment.

I too, have done books that require pain in the ass permissions. But I got paid to do those books — and I paid out to the contributors as well. Fair is fair: everything was above board. These rules are very clear.

It gets more interesting on the web, with blogs, with self-publishing where there is no money involved. We can re-invent the rules as we go. Certainly UbuWeb is a result of completely making up the rules as we’ve gone along. And it’s really worked!

My point is that as poets, we are obliged to take advantage of the lack of rules: to experiment, to explore, to invent. Fercrissake, there’s nothing to lose!


What Goldsmith is talking about is his calculated theatrics of strip-mining copyright. UBU posts whatever Goldsmith fancies (he’s the editor, after all) without seeking copyright permission. If some author—dead or alive—reaches out to him and threatens a cease-and-desist, Goldsmith takes the offending lecture, article, video, or poem down from the site. That’s where the ‘fairly’ comes in. More on that later. Cool cool, little dinosaur.

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Posted in Featured Blogger on Monday, July 15th, 2013 by Nick Twemlow.