The Dust, Michael Gottlieb


Without hypotaxis, narrative, or discursiveness, “The Dust” (Lost and Found [New York: Roof, 2003]) depends on a reader’s knowledge of its context: the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Not a strict transcription of objects pulverized or recovered from the site (some of the items included are the products of Michael Gottlieb’s imaginative speculation rather than research), the poem nonetheless evinces the power of the detached and flatly unexpressive catalog to access emotions—through strategies of obliquity and indirection—without courting blatant sentiment. The catalog at play here is not just the organizational form of the list, of course, but also the style of the wholesale product brochure; the language of the poem is closer to commercial accounting than to the traditional lyric elegy. The defamiliarizing specificity and descriptive detail of Gottlieb’s litany slows the reader and helps forestall—if only momentarily—the stock, reflexive, or scripted responses to the strongly mediated spectacle of the attacks. Where September 11 has become a symbolic event of shared cultural reference, “The Dust” reduces the monumental status of both the towers and their demise to a scale of concrete and individual particulars.

Kenneth Goldsmith’s work is reproduced here with the blanket permission he has publicly given with his “usual arguments against creativity and for copyleft, file-sharing, and free culture” (2013). As he says in UbuWeb, his huge online archive of conceptual writing, avant-garde, ethnopoetics, and outsider arts: “For the moment, we have no competition, a fact we’re not happy about. We’re distressed that there is only one UbuWeb: why aren’t there dozens like it? Looking at the art world, the problem appears to be a combination of an adherence to an old economy (one that is working very well with a booming market) and sense of trepidation, particularly in academic circles, where work on the internet is often not considered valid for academic credit. As long as the art world continues to prize economies of scarcity over those based on plentitude, the change will be a long time coming. But UbuWeb seeks to offer an alternative by invoking a gift economy of plentitude with a strong emphasis on global education.” ForBoredom aims to be that competition!