Monday, 3 February 2014


Today I came across the term 'conceptual writing' and wondered what it meant. Among the many descriptions and manifestoes available on the internet I came across this quote from Kenneth Goldsmith, the godfather of the school or movement or, indeed, concept.

The best thing about conceptual poetry is that it doesn't need to be read. You don't have to read it. As a matter of fact, you can write books, and you don't even have to read them. My books, for example, are unreadable. All you need to know is the concept behind them. 
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The "best thing"? Blimey. 

What I don't understand is how you find out what the "concept" is without having to read a description of said concept. If it unnecessary to read the poem or book why bother writing it in the first place?  Or producing magazines full of conceptual writing? Why not simply publish the concept? To me 'conceptual writing' seems tremendously old-fashioned and in fact rather quaint. Or am I being a frightful philistine?

PS I object to the shade of Samuel Beckett being inveigled into this.  He is always worth reading even if Kenneth Goldsmith doesn't bother (presumably having been let in on the "concept" in some mysterious way).

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