Over Goldsmiths Uncreative Writing

Onze informatieberg valt niet meer te beklimmen. We hebben vandaag de dag te maken met een data overkill. De Amerikaanse conceptuele dichter Kenneth Goldsmith wil aan deze overvloed geen nieuwe teksten meer toevoegen: ‘instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists.’ In Uncreative Writing zet Goldsmith in twaalf essays zijn poëtica uiteen. Direct in het begin geeft hij enkele voorbeelden van wat hij onder ‘creatiefloze’ teksten verstaat:

‘Over the past five years we have seen works such as a retyping of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in its entirety, a page a day, every day, on a blog for a year; an appropriation of the complete text of a day’s copy of the New York Times published as a nine-hundred-page book; a list poem that is nothing more than reframing a listing of stores from a shopping mall directory into a poetic form; an impoverished writer who has taken every credit card application sent to him and bound them into an eight-hundred-page print-on-demand book so costly that even he can’t afford a copy; a poet who has parsed the text of an entire nineteenth-century book on grammar according to its own methods, even down to the book’s index; a lawyer who re-presents the legal briefs of her day job as poetry in their entirety without changing a word; another writer who spends her days at the British Library copying down the first verse of Dante’s Inferno from every English translation that the library possesses, one after another, page after page, until she exhausts the library’s supply; a writing team who scoops status updates off social networking sites and assigns them to names of deceased writers (“Jonathan Swift has got tix to the Wranglers game tonight”), creating an epic, never-ending work of poetry that rewrites itself as frequently as Facebook pages are updated; and an entire movement of writing, called Flarf, that is based on grabbing the worst of Google search results: The more offensive, the more ridiculous, the more outrageous the better.’

Toch allerminst afgezaagd, dunkt me, of nihilistisch, of de uitkomst van een technologische verslaving, hoewel het lijkt of sommige auteurs van deze teksten als een programmeur te werk zijn gegaan. Goldsmith wordt er in elk geval lyrisch van:

’[W]riting imbued with celebration, its eyes ablaze with enthusiasm for the future, embracing this moment as one pregnant with possibility. This joy is evident in the writing itself, in which there are moments of unanticipated beauty, some grammatical, other structural, many philosophical: The wonderful rhythms of repetition, the spectacle of the mundane reframed as literature, a reorientation to the poetics of time, and fresh perspectives on readerliness, but to name a few. And then there’s emotion: yes, emotion. But far from from being coercive or persuasive, this writing delivers emotion obliquely and unpredictably, with sentiments expressed as a result of the writing process rather than by authorial intention.’

Als Goldsmith speculeert over dieper liggende motieven, beweegredenen waarom deze poëzie wordt geschreven, kijk ik toch wat bedenkelijk:

’[O]pening up entirely new vocabularies for the medium while deconstructing myths of power, politics, and distribution that were embedded–but hitherto invisible–in the technology.’

Een enkeling wil dit ongetwijfeld, maar voor de meeste dichters zal het plezier in wat ze doen, zonder allerlei politieke bijbedoelingen, toch de boventoon voeren. Goldsmith moet het niet mooier willen maken dan het is; het is zo al mooi genoeg. Ik ben er dol op.

Uncreative Writing, Kenneth Goldsmith, Columbia University Press, 2011

(Dit bericht verscheen eerder, op 02-09-2015, op ollauogalanestas.tumblr.com.)