Book sightings in the “wild”: My book design on Austin Kleon’s Tumblr today! Nice surprise!
Austin’s response to this book reminds me of something Tristan Tzara wrote, in his instructions for how to make a Dada poem. Even though the poem is constructed by chance, Tzara claimed that it still held the stamp of its maker:
Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century
Here’s a list of “self and ego effacing” tactics Kenneth Goldsmith suggests using to perform the act of “uncreative writing”:
uncreativity, unoriginality, illegibility, appropriation, plagiarism, fraud theft, and falsification
Out of all those, the one that really bothers me is “illegibility.” Goldsmith says his pieces are “unreadable,” that he’s the “most boring writer that has ever lived,” that you don’t really need to read his books “to get the idea of what they’re like,” and that “Readability is the last thing on this poetry’s mind.”
This is the opposite of what I am looking for: I’m looking for writing that is very readable, actually, and not boring. Pleasure is above all what I like to take from reading, and if reading a book provides no pleasure, I go pick up another book.
One of the things that struck me when researching my book Newspaper Blackout poems was how many poets used the erasure or cut-up technique as a way out of their ego. The thing is: I go to poetry for egos. I want to hear what humans have to say, in fact, I want to feel as if I’m talking to a good friend when I’m reading a book. (Or at least an interesting crazy person on the street.)
I want someone to sing to me.
Call me old-fashioned, but this is what I look for.
When I’m making my poems, readability is actually the thing foremost in my mind, and the second is: “what of me can I find in this newspaper article?” (Of course, “me” is whoever I happen to be that day…”
The funny thing about this pose of “uncreative writing,” is that you can’t help but put your mark on something, even if you make something out of the words of others. Perloff hits on this in the 3rd-to-last paragraph of this book:
According to taste: it is important to remember that the citational or appropriative text, however unoriginal its actual words and phrases, is always the product of choice—and hence of individual taste.”
Next up (if I even need to read it now…): Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, which Goldsmith writes in his introduction is actually a cousin to Marcus Boon’s In Praise of Copying — both books “stem from the same ten days,” and began as a collaborative project on sampling between the two.
Filed under: my reading year 2012