Kenneth Goldsmith
at the Kelly Writers House
Thursday, September 21, 2000

4:30 PM: Discussion on electronic publishing and its relation to innovative poetry
RSVP-only dinner to follow
7:30 PM: Reading in the Arts Cafe

The recording of the webcast of this event is now available.

Janine Catalano has written an account of this event.

Kenneth Goldsmith took a BFA in sculpture, is a visual artist of great range, publishes as an innovative poet whose book Fidget "gives engagement a whole new dimension,"* and has created and continually edits what is by far the most comprehensive web site of visual, concrete and sound poetery (UbuWeb). (His essay, "Ubuweb Wants to Be Free," is linked here.)

Among Goldsmith's books and compact discs include

Kenneth Goldsmith running through a graveyard
Kenneth Goldsmith running through a graveyard

Fidget is Goldsmith's transcription of every movement made by his body during thirteen hours on Bloomsday (June 16), 1997. Original commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art as a collaboration with vocalist Theo Bleckmann, Fidget attempts to reduce the body to a catalogue of mechnical movements by a strict act of observation. The online edition of Fidget at includes the full text, a self-running Java applet version written by programmer Clem Paulsen, and a selection of RealAudio recordings from Theo Bleckmann's vocal/visual performance at the Whitney on Bloomsday, 1998.

Of No. 111 2.7.96-19.20.96, Marjorie Perloff has written: it "is an encyclopedic poem based on words ending in the sound ah, a collection of words drawn from conversation, books, phone calls, radio shows, newspapers, television and especially the internet, arranged alphabetically and by syllable count so as to create a Gargantuan poetic reference book or archive of the argot of our times."

In an essay about Goldsmith's Fidget, Nancy Princenthal has written:

A multi-faceted project involving a web site, a performance, an installation, an introductory pamphlet, and a full scale book, Fidget was meant to be utterly objective. Its premise was a movement-by-movement auto-narration, achieved with a mike worn around his neck, of his body's progress through the waking hours of June 16,1997; the date, celebrated annually by James Joyce fans as "Bloomsday," is the same on which Ulysses transpires. Intended in part as a kind of silent twin of Goldsmith's 1997 Soliloquy, which recorded every word Goldsmith spoke for a week in the spring of 1996, Fidget was to be as laconic as that book was loquacious, as neutral as Soliloquy was, occasionally, not. Goldsmith reread Joyce in preparation for Fidget, and Beckett, too; his aim was for a text entirely stripped of props-no attending objects (description was to exclude anything outside his own skin), no adjectives, no psychology. But alas for us all, bodies have minds of their own.

When asked to comment on his drawings about punctuation, Goldsmith said:

The fact that commas slow down the act of reading is very much in keeping with John Cage when he quoted Norman O. Brown as saying that "syntax is the arrangement of the army" and Thoreau's idea that "when he heard a sentence he heard feet marching." Cage felt that the function of syntax was that of a regulatory body-language's policeman-and as an anarchist, was uninterested in those types of order and restraint. The drawings to which you're referring come directly from a Cage piece "Writing Through Finnegans Wake for the Second Time" published in Empty Words (Wesleyan University Press, 1981). In the piece, he creates a typical Cageian mesostic write-through of Finnegans Wake yet he does something that, to my knowledge, he only did once: he scatted the text's syntax all over the page as dictated by chance operations. I was struck by the beauty of that piece and was shocked that neither Cage nor anyone else ever followed the idea to its logical conclusion-or illogical conclusion as the case may be-by removing language altogether and allowing the syntax to play freely. I tend to think of the pieces as syntax on holiday.

* from Marjorie Perloff's afterword to the book