Stephen Burt writes:
Traffic right now on the Connecticut Turnpike is doing quite well. The southbound side does see construction through Stamford. Watch for lanes being closed between exits 9 and 7. It’s blocking at least one lane ’til six a.m. Once you make it down to the city line you’re OK here. The Westchester County portion of the New England Thruway right on down through the Bronx on through the, uh, Bruckner Expressway are looking good right to the Triboro Bridge.
For listeners to 1010 WINS, a New York City radio station, this is a traffic report. But for the poet Kenneth Goldsmith, such sentences are the makings of a book: Goldsmith – who calls his practice ‘uncreative writing’ – transcribed, or says he transcribed, a full day of reports, which he then published as Traffic, which was the middle part of a trilogy with Sports (a transcription of the radio broadcast of a baseball game) and the self-explanatory The Weather. Traffic, and texts like it, represent a new frontier in poetic art. The most influential claims for the work of Goldsmith and his allies have come from Marjorie Perloff, a former president of the Modern Language Association and professor of English at Stanford. Perloff has trained at least two generations of scholars and written many books on writers and artists – tracing a line from Rimbaud through Futurism to Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein, Frank O’Hara, John Cage and beyond – who have advanced what she sees as modernist goals: above all, the up-to-date, sceptical investigation of the materials and ideas from which a work of art gets made.