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 in Freeport, New York) 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), Day (2003) and his American trilogy, The Weather (2005), Traffic (2007), and Sports (2008). He is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age (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.


Born in Freeport, New York, he was trained as a sculptor at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a BFA 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]

Motivated by "Uncreativity as Creative Practice”, Goldsmith has been the editor of one continuous project, comprising both the study and practice of poetry as a writer, academic, and the curator of the prolific archives at UbuWeb. His process, which involves 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, 2000), a year of transcribed weather reports (The Weather, 2005) and one edition of The New York Times, September 1, 2000, transcribed as 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 the Kenneth Goldsmith, Electronic Poetry Center with several being consolidated in Open Letter: Kenneth Goldsmith and Conceptual Poetics (2005). Notable addressees of Goldsmith's poetry include those of the eminent critics Marjorie Perloff, Craig Dworkin, Sianne Ngai, Robert Archambeau, and Johanna Drucker, as well as poets Bruce Andrews, Christian Bok, Darren Wershler-Henry, Christine Wertheim and Caroline Bergvall. Mexican writer and critic Heriberto Yépez said in the newspaper Milenio, "Today's Joyce, Kenneth Goldsmith is the most emblematic writer of XXI Century's first decade."[3]

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.


As a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing,[4] Goldsmith’s courses include "Uncreative Writing," "Interventionist Writing," and "Writing Through Art and Culture." 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 Anschutz Distinguished Fellow Professorship[5] in American Studies at Princeton University during 2010.

Broadcast 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.

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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,"[6] "Anal Magic"[7] and "Intelligent Design."[8]

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, Brooklyn, New York).

In 1998, the Whitney Museum of American Art commissioned vocalist Theo Bleckmann to stage an interpretation of Fidget.[9]

In 2004, Goldsmith released a CD with People Like Us (musician) called Nothing Special (Soleilmoon) and has done numerous radio performances with Vicki Bennett.[10]

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, Goldsmith performed in the TRANS-WARHOL, Chamber Opera, a libretto based on his book I'll Be Your Mirror; The Andy Warhol Interviews. The project was 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.[11]

Goldsmith has written extensively about experimental music on the article 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, England, 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.

For the July / August 2009 issue of Poetry Magazine[12] 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[13] in Paris for his work on UbuWeb.

On May 11, 2011, Goldsmith was featured at President and Mrs. Obama's A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House.[14] He read works by Walt Whitman and Hart Crane, as well as from his work Traffic. Other performers 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.

In 2013, he was appointed the Museum of Modern Art's first Poet Laureate.[1] His tenure included a series called, Uncontested Spaces: Guerilla Readings, in the MoMA Galleries where, as part of his Poet Laureate program, renowned writers were invited to choose works in MoMA's collection, develop a response, and then select a space in the Museum galleries in which to perform 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]

From 26 July to 31 August 2013, Goldsmith curated a conceptual art project called Printing out the Internet in collaboration with LABOR and UbuWeb, that invited the public to print and send pages from the Internet to an art gallery in Mexico City, with the intention to literally print out the entire Internet.[15]

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.[16] 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."[17] By the end of the project, Goldsmith had accumulated over 10 tonnes of paper from more than 20,000 contributors.

Although Goldsmith said that 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."[18]


On March 13, 2015, Goldsmith read his poem The Body of Michael Brown at the "Interrupt 3" event at Brown University.[19][20] The poem was a reading of the autopsy report issued by the St. Louis County Coroner's Office on the shooting of Michael Brown, an African-American teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, setting off local protests that spread to many cities nationwide. Goldsmith explained his process on Facebook: "I altered the text for poetic effect; I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativized it in ways that made the text less didactic and more literary."[21] Notably, he moved the autopsy's reference to Brown’s genitalia to the end of the poem.[22] The poem was met with controversy.

Brown University professor John Cayley stated that the video recording of the poem will not be released to the public, as requested by Goldsmith. Goldsmith said that he is, "requesting that Brown University not make public the recording of my performance of The Body of Michael Brown. There’s been too much pain for many people around this and I do not wish to cause any more.[23]"

Selected bibliography[edit]

Those works marked (GAT) comprise the so-called "Goldsmith American Trilogy."

  • No 105, Beans Dear Press, New York, New York (1992)
  • Tizzy Boost, with Bruce Andrews, The Figures, Great Barrington, Massachusetts (1993)
  • No. 110 10.4.93-10.7.93, Artists Museum, nddz, Poland, (1993)
  • No. 109 2.7.93-12.15.93, Bravin Post Lee, New York, New York (1994)
  • 6799, Zingmagazine Press, New York (2000)
  • Kenneth Goldsmith (e-book), Electronic Poetry Center, Buffalo, New York (2002)
  • Day, The Figures, Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Berkeley, CA (2003) (GAT)
  • Kenneth Goldsmith and Conceptual Poetics, with Lori Emerson and Barbara Cole, Open Letter, Strathroy, Ontario (2005)
  • Spring, with James Siena, Michael Bixler, Winifred Bixler, Didymus Press, New York (2005)
  • John Cage uncaged is still cagey, with David Anton and John Cage, Singing Horse Press, San Diego, California (2005)
  • Sucking on Words, (an interactive poetry experience distributed on DVD) Cornerhouse Press, York, England (2007)
  • Kenneth Goldsmith : street poets & visionaries : selections from the UbuWeb Collection, with Craig Leonard, Mercer Union, Toronto (2008)
  • Sports, Make Now, Los Angeles (2008) (GAT)
  • Uncreative writing : managing language in the digital age, Columbia University Press, New York (2011)
  • Against Expression: an anthology of conceptual writing, with Craig Douglas Dworkin, Northwestern University Press, Evanston Illinois (2011)
  • Dog Ear, with Erica Baum and Beatrice Gross, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, New York (2011)
  • I'll be your mirror : the selected Andy Warhol interviews : 1962-1987, Carrol & Graf, New York (2011)
  • Seven American deaths and disasters, Powerhouse Books, Brooklyn, New York (2013)
  • Kenneth Goldsmith: theory, Jean Boite Editions (2015)


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Jacket 21 - Marjorie Perloff: A Conversation with Kenneth Goldsmith". 
  3. ^ "Home - Grupo Milenio". Milenio. 
  4. ^ "Faculty Directory". 
  5. ^ Princeton University. "Anschutz Distinguished Fellowship in American Studies - Anschutz Distinguished Fellowship in American Studies - Program in American Studies - Princeton University". 
  6. ^ "playlists and archives for Kenny G's Hour of Pain". 
  7. ^ "WFMU: Radio Boredcast: Playlist from March 30, 2012".  line feed character in |title= at position 6 (help)
  8. ^ "Intelligent Design with Kenny G playlist - 09.12.07". 
  9. ^ "Nancy Princenthal on Kenneth Goldsmith's "Fidget"". 
  10. ^ Browse by Artist: PEOPLE LIKE US & KENNY G
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo.". 
  13. ^ "Qwartz". Qwartz. 
  14. ^ "A Celebration of American Poetry at the White House". 
  15. ^ Tumblr for Printing out the Internet.
  16. ^ Zak, Dan (July 26, 2013). "'Printing Out the Internet' exhibit is crowdsourced work of art" The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 September 2013
  17. ^ Walker, Rob (May 29, 2013). "Printing the Internet" Yahoo News. Retrieved on September 13th, 2013.
  18. ^ Mockler, Kathryn (July 26th, 2013). "Kathryn Mockler: On Printing Out the Internet" The Lemon Hound. Retrieved on September 13th, 2013.
  19. ^ "Penn Professor Sparks Controversy With Michael Brown Poem". Philadelphia Magazine. 
  20. ^ "Interrupt 2015". 
  21. ^ "The Body of Michael Brown--A Response to Kenneth Goldsmith". The Huffington Post. 
  22. ^ Jason Guriel. "How Should We Think About Kenneth Goldsmith's Poetic Remixes? - The New Republic". The New Republic. 
  23. ^ "Kenneth Goldsmith Remixes Michael Brown Autopsy Report as Poetry". Hyperallergic. 

External links[edit]