The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Conceptual poet to share his experimental works

Most people have a stereotypical view of what a poetry reading will contain: dark lighting, coffee, and artsy people. Kenneth Goldsmith, a poet and founder of UbuWeb, refuses to fit into these clichés.

“Whatever he does, it’s not going to be your typical poetry reading,” said Richard Wiebe, who has worked with Goldsmith for the Works-in-Progress Festival. “He’s going to make you rethink poetry and language.”

Iowa City will have this chance to rethink language and attend an atypical poetry reading by Goldsmith at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 in the Dey House Frank Conroy Reading Room [CALENDAR SAYS PRAIRIE LIGHTS]. Fans can also join him in the same space at 11 a.m. Oct. 22 for a Q&A.

“In 1986, I made a book out of wood,” he said. “After that, I spent the next three years creating books out of wood. They were carved and painted. In 1990, I was bored of the book form and bored of sculpture. However, I was fascinated by the words, so I dropped the sculpture and began making text pieces. Soon, I became bored of having to materialize language and devoted myself to working exclusively on the computer and writing books. I now sculpt with words.”

His books are not the only way Goldsmith sends messages to the world. In 1996, the University of Pennsylvania professor founded UbuWeb, an online source for avant-garde materials, including film, MP3s, visual art, and poetry. The Internet has become the new norm for publishing works, so poetry on this site reaches far more people than printed literature.

“I’m going to drop a real secret on you,” said Goldsmith. “Shhhh … the new radicalism is paper. Right. Publish it on a printed page, and no one will ever know about it. It’s the perfect vehicle for terrorists, serial killers, and sensitive poets. If you don’t want it to exist — and there are many reasons to want to keep things private — keep it off the web. Otherwise, close your eyes and think of England, dear.”

This opinion could explain Goldsmith’s statements that his books should never be read, only considered. His books are printed, and thus, he feels no one will ever know about them. However, this isn’t exactly proving to be true.

His works are critically acclaimed.

“Goldsmith’s career is a celebration of new ways to write, new formations of meaning,” said Dee Morris, a contemporary poetry and experimental writing professor at the University of Iowa. “He is without a doubt the leading conceptual poet of his moment.”

Goldsmith is also recognized for the interesting topics he chooses to sculpt his words around. His book Soliloquy, released in 2001, simply records every word he spoke for a week on 296 pages, while Fidget of 2000 describes every movement he made for 13 hours on June 16, 1997. “I like boring things,” the poet said.  “John Cage said, ‘If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then 16. Then 32. Eventually, one discovers that it is not boring at all.’ He’s right: there’s a certain kind of unboring boredom that’s fascinating, engrossing, transcendent, and downright sexy.”

Making boring topics “unboring” is no easy task, but the popularity of Goldsmith’s works suggests he is doing a fairly successful job. However, he says his books should never be read, only considered. When asked why people should come to his reading on works that should never be read, he replied, “They shouldn’t. Best not to come. Better to stay home. Really. It will be dull.”


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