Fidget is writer Kenneth Goldsmith's transcription of every movement made by his body during 13 hours on Bloomsday June 16 It is a hypnotic work, strangely compelling and disorienting at the same time; you'll never think about your body in the same way again. Originally commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as a collaboration with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, Fidget attempts to reduce the body to a catalogue of mechanical movements by a strict act of observation. The stress of this rigorous exercise creates a condition of shifting reference points and multiple levels of observation that inevitably undermines the author's objective approach, and the trajectory of the work begins to change. The text of Fidget is followed by an afterword written by Marjorie Perloff, which both explains the circumstances of the project's creation including the important role Jack Daniel's plays in the latter part of the text and explores its results. But to fidget with points of view leads always to new beginnings and incessant new beginnings lead to sterility.
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Goldsmith lives in New York. Chapter 1 has words of one syllable. The last chapter claims to have seven thousand two hundred and twenty-eight syllables. Their movement became known as conceptual poetry, and it made Goldsmith as famous as an experimental poet usually gets—anyway, it made him the most famous uncreative writer. In , along with mainstream poets, including Billy Collins and Rita Dove, and the rapper Common, Goldsmith read at the White House, and in he became the first poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art.
He is about five feet nine and thin, with a long face, and he usually has a beard or a mustache. He dresses flamboyantly, sometimes in suits with big paisley patterns.
He has one in brown and one in blue, which he wore to the White House, with saddle shoes—Obama asked why he was wearing golf shoes—and he often pairs them with a small-brimmed hat that he wears pushed back, the way a child might. He also likes to wear long, flowing skirts over his pants, because they make him look as different as possible from the threadbare image he believes most people have of a poet. He tends to speak slowly and enunciate clearly, in a stagy voice, and he models his public manner on Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
He is an obsessive reader of difficult books and a patient and close listener. He does not try to dominate a room, but when the spotlight falls on him he is prepared. Periodically, he embodies the archetype of the trickster who sometimes pushes things too far, even against his own interests. Before Goldsmith became a poet, he was a text artist—that is, he wrote words on surfaces. He began by making sculptures of books and carving words on them.
The surfaces got bigger, until he was writing on panels that were larger than doors. He printed the words on pages and pasted them to the walls of a gallery. They covered the walls from floor to ceiling. That was the end of art for me. He divided the text into seven acts, one for each day. He said that he lost more than one friend when people read what he thought of them. Tongue runs across upper lip moving from left side of mouth to right following arc of lip.
It took him an hour to get out of bed. By the afternoon, he was exhausted, and at around five he fell asleep. He awoke after an hour, anxious at having the evening and night to describe. He bought a fifth of whiskey and drank it while sitting on a pier beside the Hudson River.
He began to slur his words, then he accidentally turned the tape recorder off, so he lost the rest of the day. The last chapter is the first chapter typed backward, with each gesture except the last one reversed. If he moved his left foot forward, he wrote that his right foot moved backward. The date is simply the day that he happened to be free to start a new project.
The book is eight hundred and thirty-six pages long and took a year to type. Nearly two hundred pages are financial tables. One day, I had lunch with Goldsmith. Conceptual art and conceptual poetry embody ideas, and both descend from Duchamp. Painting and sculpture are meant for the eye; conceptual art is meant for the intellect. Lyric poetry values identity, metaphor, and precision. He believes that he is applying to poetry art-world practices that are nearly a century old.
The art world has become so accustomed to outrage and turmoil that it is now nearly indifferent to controversy, he said. Poetry is such an easy place to go in and break up the house. A lyric poet typically intends to express a thought or a feeling.
Goldsmith placed coffee in front of him. If they move a reader, it is by means of uncanny associations and the sense that they read as if written by a person. Goldsmith poured himself a glass of water, then sat down. Our grandfathers who inspired us had a kind of perfect endgame—things like language poetry. Language poets believed that the meaning words held was as important as the way they were used.
Finally, language got so atomized that there was nothing left to do. It was language as grains of sand. Each allows only one vowel. Goldsmith believes that the Internet, with its cataract of words, made obsolete the figure of the writer as an isolated man or woman endeavoring to produce an original work.
Instead of depending mainly on his or her capacity for invention, the new writer transports information. He or she retypes and recasts, archives, assembles, and cuts and pastes, passing along pieces of writing and blocks of text, the way people do on social media. Benjamin relies heavily on passages taken from other writers. Goldsmith spent ten years in libraries copying sentences, which he organized into two categories, concrete and abstract. Goldsmith developed his stagy voice while working as a disk jockey.
Between and , he had a radio show on WFMU, a progressive station in New Jersey, where he played avant-garde music and performed avant-garde gestures. The show was broadcast once a week, for three hours. For an entire show, he played a recording of two men snoring. Another time, he had listeners call in and scream. He believes that challenging someone not to listen or read makes the person pay closer attention.
Goldsmith was born in Freeport, Long Island, in His high-school enthusiasms were drugs and art. On their first date, he took her at four in the morning to an all-night supermarket in a small town in Rhode Island, where he interrogated people about what they had in their carts and why they were in the supermarket at that hour.
One, a lawyer named Finkelstein, changed his name to Field. Turns into a wicked alcoholic, loses his job, and becomes a rent collector on the West Side, carrying a gun and picking up cash. The business was called Bromleigh Coats. A lyric poem exists in a context of ambiguity.
Conceptual poems are the result of their method. A lyric poem might pass through many versions before arriving at its final form; a conceptual poem has only one version. As soon as Goldsmith decided to copy an edition of the Times , or present the transcript of a broadcast, the poem existed.
A poem must also address a deep subject. Lyric poets tend to be allergic to conceptual poetry. The poet C. I associate him with a certain kind of avant-garde spectacle. Marjorie Perloff is widely considered the most influential critic of experimental poetry.
All his works are not equally good. My students love it, though. They like that he presented, in an almost Joycean way, what it is like to experience a single day. Many of these writers identify themselves as poets of color. Some poets of color feel that Goldsmith is subtly denying selves that they wish to assert and explore. Only a white person, these writers say, has the ability to shed his or her identity or to wear it casually. Their experience is that to be a person of color in America is to be constantly reminded of who you are.
The perception that the field had discovered its boundary had led to its being less well attended. He wanted to hold the stage a bit longer. Last March, Goldsmith gave a reading at a conference at Brown University. Goldsmith wore a long black skirt over dark leggings and a black suit jacket. He looked like a Coptic priest. He stood beneath a projection of a photograph of Brown in his high-school graduation robe.
He read for thirty minutes, pacing forward and back. He believed he had demonstrated that conceptual poetry could handle inflammatory material and provoke outrage in the service of a social cause. A young man in the audience told her that for thirty minutes he had thought about nothing but Michael Brown. Rin Johnson, a young artist, wrote me that the reading had upset her. I asked Goldsmith what he had hoped to provoke.
The morning after the reading, Goldsmith was on the train to New York, looking at his phone, when he began to see objections to his reading, mostly from people who had only heard about it. During the next few days, the objections grew vehement.
He also asked the university not to make available the video of his performance. Throughout the spring and early summer, a number of online literary journals published withering pieces about Goldsmith. Several blogs on sites such as the Poetry Foundation also rebuked him.
An art school in Switzerland had him fill out a questionnaire, which it published online. None were supportive.
Goldsmith lives in New York. Chapter 1 has words of one syllable. The last chapter claims to have seven thousand two hundred and twenty-eight syllables. Their movement became known as conceptual poetry, and it made Goldsmith as famous as an experimental poet usually gets—anyway, it made him the most famous uncreative writer. In , along with mainstream poets, including Billy Collins and Rita Dove, and the rapper Common, Goldsmith read at the White House, and in he became the first poet laureate of the Museum of Modern Art. He is about five feet nine and thin, with a long face, and he usually has a beard or a mustache.
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Kenneth Goldsmith born is an American poet and critic. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb and is a senior editor of PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania , where he teaches. He has published ten books of poetry, notably Fidget , Soliloquy , Day and his American trilogy, The Weather , Traffic , and Sports In , he was appointed the Museum of Modern Art 's first poet laureate.