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May 13, 2011


dei xhrist

Kenny G., always dressing for the ladies. Who like that sort of thing. Who number more than just me, I'm sure. Really.

Jonathan Skinner

I took notes on the White House poetry workshop hosted by Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Alexander which was streamed live between 2:30 and 4 pm on May 11th, 2011. Here are the notes for Kenny's segment.

Elizabeth Alexander introduces the "experimental camp"
(reading from notes, a little less spontaneous than previous introductions):

Kenneth Goldsmith and Alison Knowles
questing for new ways to solve the problems we all seek to solve

[my stream freezes momentarily, so I miss part of her introduction]
mentions Kenny's "terrific weekly radio show" (on WFMU), ubuweb, PennSound, the "Sucking on Words" documentary

[go look up the title of Kenny's original WFMU show to learn why it might not have been mentioned by name]

Kenneth Goldsmith

wearing parti-colored, pink & blue pastel suit

uncreative writing workshop: where students are penalized for originality

the language is nothing but language; the web is miles and miles and miles of language

writer's block is no longer an excuse

the wonders of cutting & pasting

students who already cut & paste on the down low, now this is in the open

they come back with poems that are way more original than they would be if they had written them themselves

they learn that writing is an embodied act, through sculpting the physicality of words

now you can't ever tell me you have writer's block

I have published several books and not written one word of them

why be imitative when you can just copy it directly

I am the most boring writer who has ever lived

holds up copy of Day: the stock pages alone are 300 pages

a very slow news day, the Friday of Labor Day in September, 2000

it took me a year and a half to retype this newspaper

it was meditative, transcendent -- one of the most fabulous years and a half I ever lived

each newspaper is a novel, every day, and it's written 900 times every day

tells anecdote about student who was assigned to write an essay in imitation of Jack Kerouac: she would have learned a lot more from retyping On the Road

[something Kenny fudges here, once again, is the difference between the process of retyping/ rewriting and that of cutting & pasting]

you simply take something, and you reframe it, and it becomes literature. it's very easy: you're trying too hard

[so, bringing together advice here from KG and from Billy Collins, can I just cut & paste my way through the remainder of the 300 bad poems I was born with?]

Alison Knowles

she set out to be a painter, wasn't very good at that

talks about meeting John Cage: find a process for yourself, don't be alone with the work

art is a social experience

art is everywhere, you can make art out of anything

talks about Marcel Ducham's urinal -- I had never looked at a urinal before

make sound (lifts up and turns her bean drum sound maker a couple of times)

make things: I had to learn to make my own paper

"art isn't somebody saying something, but people doing things"

Q & A

Poetic influences?

Knowles: Thoreau, I go on quite a trip in the woods, Robert Frost (recites the whole of "Two roads diverged in the wood/ I took the one less traveled by")

Kenny takes a pass on this question [no Warhol?]

Line between imitation and [theft]?

KG: Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Bootlegging is very generous and giving and paying tribute. It's showing love and it's showing support. And I believe that those are the sorts of communities that we're talking about.

We have nothing to lose. We are obliged to take all the risks. This is the purest of the artforms. We are incorruptible.

Ken Katkin

I played the White House Recording of Kenny G's "Brooklyn Bridge Poems" on Trash Flow Radio in Cincinnati on Saturday May 21, accompanied by the musical bed that I heard in my head: "The Story of Chickenhawk" by the early-90s Louisville KY combo, Chickenhawk. Anyone who is interested in hearing the 6-minute mix can download it here:

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