Text machine

Interview by Alex Rayner

Kenneth Goldsmith doesn’t write his own works, as much as copy lines from other people. So why should we regard this self-styled ‘uncreative writer’ as a poetic pioneer, and why does he think anyone will read all of his new book about New York?

Here is a poem by the 55-year-old New York poet Kenneth Goldsmith. It is called CCIX, and comes from a wide-ranging collection called No – 10.20.96, published in 1997.

“My father is always looking for a solution to his many woes. This quest has led him down the New Age path. This started many years ago when he and my mother returned from a week-long Silva Mind Control seminar in Texas. Upon returning he gathered us kids into the car and told us with pride that due to the methods he had learned in the past week we would never again have to stop for a traffic light – he now could use his Mind Control to change the situation. Excitedly we climbed into the car. As we approached the first red light – voilà! – it went green. We applauded and as we came up to the next light it too turned green. Rather impressed, we awaited the next light and as we approached it it was red and it stayed that way. We stopped for that light and it looked like we’d be stopping for red lights for the foreseeable future.”

Here are a few lines from a later, more famous work. This is called The Weather and dates from 2005:

“Well, we’ve got a little bit of everything here, uh, over the next forty-eight hours. Uh, at the moment, uh, we have an area of, uh, both rain and wet snow breaking out from the Pennsylvania and upstate New York, uh, some flakes have been, uh, on occasion, across Sussex and Orange County, uh, they might even pick up, uh, an inch of slushy snow there before it goes over to rain very, very late tonight. In closer to the city, we do expect to see a bit of rain at times here tonight, uh, there could be some wet snowflakes mixed in as well, at least though midnight or two in the morning, and then it’s, uh, too mild aloft to support anything frozen, a low temperature of thirty-five.”

Read more in Issue 1...