Kenneth Goldsmith, the Museum of Modern Art’s first poet laureate forces his writing students to plagiarize.
Kenneth Goldsmith is not your typical poet. In 2000, he published Fidget, a catalog of every single movement his body made over a 13-hour period.Traffic, from 2007, was nothing more than unedited transcriptions of traffic reports. And while his latest book, Seven American Deaths and Disasters, concerns itself with events that are considerably more noteworthy than fender benders, his process remains one of collecting, not creating; the forthcoming work is made up entirely of Goldsmith’s transcriptions of news and radio reports of milestone events in modern history, like Kennedy’s assassination and the Columbine shootings.
For Goldsmith, who was recently named MoMA’s first-ever poet laureate, such works are not just one-note statements about the role of appropriation in the Internet age. They’re actual sites of linguistic import, places where the “slick curtain of media is torn, revealing acrobatic linguistic improvisations.” In a sense, you could say that the broadcasters are the poets and Goldsmith’s merely the curator. Or, from a slightly different angle, they’re the poets and he’s the plagiarist.
Goldsmith is fine with that distinction, too. In fact, as the artist explains inan interview with The Awl, when it comes to his “Uncreative Writing” course at the University of Pennsylvania, plagiarism is part of the syllabus:
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