Is poetry as we know it dead? Goldsmith speculates the “meme machine” has taken over.

This week, The New Yorker book blog published a post by Kenneth Goldsmith about the proliferation of rather un-poetic  “poetry” spreading across the internet. He writes:

[T]he Canadian media scholar Darren Wershler…has been making some unexpected connections between meme culture and contemporary poetry. “These artifacts,” Wershler claims, “aren’t conceived of as poems; they aren’t produced by people who identify as poets; they circulate promiscuously, sometimes under anonymous conditions; and they aren’t encountered by interpretive communities that identify them as literary.”

…It’s not uncommon to see blogs that recount someone’s every sneeze since 2007, or of a man who shoots exactly one second of video every day and strings the clips together in time-lapsed mashups. There is guy who secretly taped all of his conversations for three years and a woman who documents every morsel of food that she puts into her mouth. While some of these people aren’t consciously framing their activities as works of art, Wershler argues that what they’re doing is so close to the practices of sixties conceptualism that the connection between the two can’t be ignored.

And he’s right. Younger poets find it stimulating: they are reclaiming this “found” poetry and uploading it to the self-publishing platform Lulu. They create print-on-demand books that, most likely, will never be printed, but will live as PDFs on Lulu—their de-facto publisher and distributor. These are big, ridiculous books, like Chris Alexander’s five-hundred-and-twenty-eight-page “McNugget,” which reprints every tweet ever posted that contains the word “McNugget”; Andy Sterling’s “Supergroup,” which appropriates over four hundred pages’ worth of Discogs listings of small-bit session players from long-forgotten nineteen-seventies LPs; and Angela Genusa’s “Tender Buttons,” which converts Gertrude Stein’s difficult modernist text of the same name into illegible computer code.

My take: this is not poetry, and it isn’t even literature.

The creators of this new art form are communicating — but with their actions, not their words. Many of these creations are not intended to be read, after all, but to make you think. And they accomplish that task.

Unlike Mr. Goldsmith, I don’t call that poetry (poetry, after all, is about the condensation of image and sensation and idea into words). However, it is art. Dadaist, maybe, or possibly postmodern. Concept art? Perhaps.

And, no, I don’t think that this new, so-called “poetry” endangers true poetry. Earlier in Mr. Goldsmith’s post, he speculates that soon, poetry in the traditional sense will be replaced by this new “meme machine.” But I see poetry all around me. There are traditionally published poets, and self-published but still traditional poets. There are songwriters (what is a song but poetry set to music?). None of these things are going away.

What would you call this phenomenon?

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