Kenneth Goldsmith

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Kenneth Goldsmith
Kenneth-Goldsmith White-House 2011 HiRes.jpg
Kenneth Goldsmith reading at President Obama's A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House on May 11, 2011
Born 1961
Freeport, New York
Occupation poet, critic
Nationality American
Period 1993 - present
Notable works Day

Kenneth Goldsmith (born 1961) is an American poet. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a Senior Editor of PennSound. He hosted a weekly radio show at WFMU from 1995 until June 2010. He has published ten books of poetry, notably Fidget (2000), Soliloquy (2001) and Day (2003) and Goldsmith's American trilogy, The Weather (2005), Traffic (2007), and Sports (2008). He is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age (2011). As editor he published I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews (2004) and is the co-editor of Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (2011). In 2013, he was appointed the Museum of Modern Art's first Poet Laureate.[1] He resides in New York City with his wife, artist Cheryl Donegan, and his two sons.


Goldsmith was born in Freeport, New York. He was trained as a sculptor at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a B.F.A in 1984. Goldsmith worked for many years within the art world as a text-based artist and sculptor before becoming a writer.[2]

Conceptual Poetics and Poetic Practice[edit]

Driven by a preoccupation with “Uncreativity as Creative Practice”, Goldsmith is essentially the habitual editor of one large project, contributing to both the study and practice of poetry as a writer, academic, and as curator of the prolific archives at UbuWeb. His process, a series of writing and self-induced constraints, has produced: 600 pages of rhyming phrases ending with the sound r, sorted by syllables and alphabetized (No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96, 1997); everything he said for a week (Soliloquy, 2001); every move his body made during a thirteen-hour period (Fidget, 1999); a year of transcribed weather reports (The Weather, 2005); and one day, the September 1, 2000 issue of The New York Times, transcribed (Day, 2003). Goldsmith's practice embraces the performance of the writer as process and plagiarism as content.

Extensive creative and critical responses to his work are archived at Kenneth Goldsmith, Electronic Poetry Center with several being consolidated in Open Letter: Kenneth Goldsmith and Conceptual Poetics (2005). Notable addresses of Goldsmith's poetry include those of the eminent critics Marjorie Perloff, Craig Dworkin, Sianne Ngai, Robert Archambeau, and Johanna Drucker and poets Bruce Andrews, Christian Bok, Darren Wershler-Henry, Christine Wertheim and Caroline Bergvall. Poet and Critic Juliana Spahr asserts, "Kenneth Goldsmith is without a doubt the leading conceptual poet of his time".[3] Heriberto Yépez, Mexican writer and critic said on the newspaper Milenio, "Today's Joyce, Kenneth Goldsmith is the most emblematic writer of XXI Century's first decade."[4]

The first symposium on Conceptual Poetics was held at the Oslo Poetry Festival in November 2007. A larger conference, Conceptual Poetry and its Others, organized by critic Marjorie Perloff was held at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in May 2008.

In 2011, he co-edited (with Craig Dworkin) "Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing" (Northwestern University Press, Chicago)[5] and published a book of essays related to notions of conceptual poetics, "Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age" (Columbia University Press, New York).[6]


As a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing,[7] Goldsmith’s courses include "Uncreative Writing,"[8] "Interventionist Writing,"[9] and "Writing Through Art and Culture."[10] The last of these is taught in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Class tools are appropriation, theft, stealing, plundering, and sampling. Cheating, fraud, and identity theft are all encouraged. For Goldsmith, the classroom is a free space in which ethical queries can be conducted in a safe environment. In addition, Goldsmith has run a graduate seminar at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago entitled "Publishing as Project."

He was awarded the The Anschutz Distinguished Fellow Professorship[11] in American Studies at Princeton University during 2010.

Radio, Sound, Live Events and Collaborations[edit]

Goldsmith performs an excerpt of Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" from Leaves of Grass on the May 11, 2011 White House Music & the Arts Podcast during the President Obama & Poets at the White House event.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Goldsmith hosted a weekly show on WFMU, the New Jersey-based freeform radio station, from 1995 until June 2010, using the broadcast name of "Kenny G". The show was an extension of Goldsmith's writing experiments, his pedagogy and UbuWeb. His programs were titled (for various extended periods) "Kenny G's Hour of Pain,"[12] "Anal Magic"[13] and "Intelligent Design."[14]

He has also had numerous collaborations with musicians and composers. In 1993, Goldsmith embarked on a collaboration with avant-garde vocalist Joan La Barbara, resulting in a CD and book 73 Poems (Permanent Press / Lovely Music).

In 1998, the Whitney Museum of American Art commissioned vocalist Theo Bleckmann to stage an interpretation of Fidget.[15]

In 2004, he released a CD with People Like Us (musician) called Nothing Special (Soleilmoon) and has done numerous radio performances with Vicki Bennett.[16]

In 2005, Goldsmith collaborated with guitarist Alan Licht to stage an evening length performance of The Weather, as well as excerpts from Fidget. Goldsmith has also collaborated with musician David Grubbs with texts from Fidget.

In 2006, was Goldsmith wrote the libretto for and performed in the TRANS-WARHOL, Chamber Opera based on his book I'll Be Your Mirror; The Andy Warhol Interviews , a collaboration with choreographer Nicolas Musin, composer Philippe Schoeller and Ensemble Alternance. The opera premiered at the Bâtiment des forces motrices in Geneva in March 2007.[17]

Goldsmith has written extensively on experimental music A Popular Guide to Unpopular Music and has curated numerous musical events and compact discs. He was a musical curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art's The American Century, Part 2, which included 73 Poems. In 2004, he curated a CD for the Sonic Arts Network in London called The Agents of Impurity. In 2006 he organized a CD for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston called The Body is a Sound Factory. Also in 2006, he organized an 8 hour-long performance at The Sculpture Center (New York City) of Erik Satie's Vexations "Pianoless Vexations" (UbuWeb) for any instrument other than piano.

In October 2007, a documentary film of Goldsmith's life and practice, Sucking on Words, by filmmaker Simon Morris was screened at Shandy Hall in Coxwold, UK, where Lawrence Sterne wrote Tristram Shandy, and in London. The film was premiered at the Eccles Center at the British Library in London and subsequently screened at the Oslo Poetry Festival in November 2007.

In February 2008, he performed at the Instal 08 festival in Glasgow.

On April 17, 2009 Goldsmith organized an evening of contemporary poetry at The Whitney Museum of American Art in conjunction with the Jenny Holzer Retrospective entitled "Conceptual Writing vs. The Flarf Collective" featuring poets from both camps. Conceptualists included Christian Bök, Kim Rosenfield, Darren Wershler, formerly (Darren Wershler-Henry) and Goldsmith himself. Flarf poets included Gary Sullivan, Nada Gordon, Sharon Mesmer and K. Silem Mohammad.

For the July / August 2009 issue of Poetry Magazine[18] published by The Poetry Foundation, Goldsmith introduced and edited a highly controversial portfolio of Conceptual Writing and Flarf.

In April 2009, Goldsmith was awarded a Qwartz Electronic Music Award[19] in Paris for his work on UbuWeb.

In October 2009, Goldsmith advised, curated and participated in The Serpentine Gallery's 24-hour Poetry Marathon[20] in London.

On May 11, 2011, Goldsmith was featured at President and Mrs. Obama's A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House.[21] He read works by Walt Whitman and Hart Crane, as well as from his work "Traffic." Others performing at The White House that day included: Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann, Jill Scott and Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. During the afternoon, Goldsmith led a poetry workshop for high school students with Michelle Obama.

Goldsmith was invited to participate in dOCUMENTA(13) in Kassel, Germany, 2012. In 2011, dOCUMENTA published his chapbook, Letter To Bettina Funcke[22] as part of their 100 Notes - 100 Thoughts series.[23]

In 2013, he was appointed the Museum of Modern Art's first Poet Laureate.[1] His tenure included a series "Uncontested Spaces: Guerilla Readings" in the MoMA Galleries, where as part of his Poet Laureate program, he invited renowned writers to choose works in MoMA's collection, develop a response, and then select a space in the Museum galleries where they performed the resulting readings and texts. Participants included David Shields, Sheila Heti, Rick Moody, John Zorn, Stefan Sagmeister, Charles Bernstein, Christian Bök, Vanessa Place, Maira Kalman, Heidi Julavits, Alex Ross (music critic), Vito Acconci, and others. Every Friday, from January to July 2013, Goldsmith himself contributed readings in the galleries.

Printing Out The Internet[edit]

On May 22, 2013, Kenneth Goldsmith in collaboration with LABOR and UbuWeb created a Tumblr page where they invited people to print and send pages from the Internet to an art gallery in Mexico City for the conceptual art project Printing Out The Internet, which ran from July 26 to August 31, 2013[24] With the intention to literally print out the entire Internet, Goldsmith dedicated the exhibition to Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide while facing federal charges of illegally downloading and disseminating millions of files from the digital library JSTOR.[25] As Goldsmith said in an interview, "The amount of what he liberated was enormous — we can’t begin to understand the magnitude of his action until we begin to materialize and actualize it. This project tries to bring that point home."[26] By the end of the project, Goldsmith had accumulated over 10 tonnes of paper from more than 20,000 submitters.

Though Goldsmith said all the paper would be recycled at the end of the project, bloggers and journalists criticized the project for its alleged environmental impact. Goldsmith and his supporters, however, argued that the conversation generated by the piece becomes just as important as the work itself. As one art critic wrote, "Perhaps we should see Goldsmith’s project not as one of triviality, spectacle, or waste, but rather as a vital (even if temporary) documentation and as a form of protest to keep the internet free, in so much that it is. Why print out the internet? Because we can, for now, and because maybe we should."[27]


  • No. 110 10.4.93-10.7.93 (Artists Museum, nddz, Poland, 1993)
  • 73 Poems (1993), with Joan La Barbara (1994)
  • No. 109 2.7.93-12.15.93 (Bravin Post Lee, 1994)
  • No. (The Figures, 1997)
  • Gertrude Stein on Punctuation (Abaton Books, 2000)
  • Fidget (Coach House Books, 2000)
  • 6799 (zingmagazine, 2000)
  • Soliloquy (Granary Books, 2001)
  • Head Citations (The Figures, 2002)
  • Day (The Figures, 2003)
  • The Weather : Winter Spring Summer Fall (Make Now, Los Angeles, 2005)
  • Traffic (Make Now, Los Angeles, 2007)
  • Sports (Make Now, Los Angeles, 2008)
  • Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern University Press, Chicago, 2011)
  • Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age (Columbia University Press, New York, 2011)
  • Seven American Deaths and Disasters (powerHouse Books, New York, 2013)

Critical Writing[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Jacket Magazine
  3. ^ U B U W E B :: Open Letter - Barbara Cole & Lori Emerson | Introduction
  4. ^ Home - Milenio - Grupo Milenio
  5. ^ NU Press -> Title Detail
  6. ^ Uncreative Writing
  7. ^ University of Pennsylvania | Department of English
  8. ^ Undergraduate/2006/Fall/ENGL111.301 | University of Pennsylvania | Department of English
  9. ^ Undergraduate/2008/Fall/ENGL111.301 | University of Pennsylvania | Department of English
  10. ^ Undergraduate/2007/Fall/ENGL165.301 | University of Pennsylvania | Department of English
  11. ^ Anschutz Distinguished Fellowship in American Studies - Anschutz Distinguished Fellowship in American Studies - Program in American Studies - Princeton University
  12. ^ playlists and archives for Kenny G's Hour of Pain
  13. ^ WFMU: Radio Boredcast: Playlist from March 30, 2012
  14. ^ Intelligent Design with Kenny G playlist | 09.12.07
  15. ^ Nancy Princenthal on Kenneth Goldsmith's "Fidget"
  16. ^ Browse by Artist: PEOPLE LIKE US & KENNY G
  17. ^
  18. ^ Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo. by Kenneth Goldsmith
  19. ^ Qwartz | international network for new, electronic music and digital art
  20. ^
  21. ^ A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House | The White House
  22. ^ dOCUMENTA (13) - panorama
  23. ^ Kenneth Goldsmith | E-Books | Hatje Cantz
  24. ^ Tumblr for Printing out the Internet.
  25. ^ Zak, Dan (July 26, 2013). "'Printing Out the Internet' exhibit is crowdsourced work of art" The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 September 2013
  26. ^ Walker, Rob (May 29, 2013). "Printing the Internet" Yahoo News. Retrieved on September 13th, 2013.
  27. ^ Mockler, Kathryn (July 26th, 2013). "Kathryn Mockler: On Printing Out the Internet" The Lemon Hound. Retrieved on September 13th, 2013.

External links[edit]