‘Goods’ explores creative and ‘uncreative’ arts

Kenneth Goldsmith, pioneer of ‘uncreative writing’ headlined ink’s annual ‘The Goods.’ (Abby Hocking).

Following the tradition of welcoming the end of the semester with culture in the Rathskeller, ink held its annual campus-wide arts festival, ‘The Goods,’ on Saturday April 22. The daylong event, featuring student poets, musical groups and essayists, was capped by a poetry reading by Kenneth Goldsmith. Goldsmith, self-professed pioneer of “uncreative writing,” is a novel poet specializing in placing found language, or words from other sources, in new contexts to surprise readers.

Following student performances was headliner Goldsmith, who performed several of his “poems” – actually dispatches from news sources and other media he reads as poetry. He evoked news reporters covering the assassinations of John Lennon and Bobby Kennedy, the September 11th and Columbine disasters and Michael Jackson’s death.

“I just read what happens, and I read it out loud,” Goldsmith said, a professor of the genre he pioneers, “uncreative writing,” at the University of Pennsylvania. “I try not to do anything with it. I try to make it as dull as possible. It looks like a term paper. It’s supposed to look like a term paper.”

Goldsmith, who studied sculpture in college and professes to hate traditional poetry, prefers to capture the “relevant” moments in contemporary America through using this found language.

Ink describes ‘The Goods’ as a “celebration of student art. “But, throughout the seven-hour day, it also served as a reunion for ink presidents past, present and future, a poetry slam, a concert hall and a comedy show featuring a scene from a Monty Python film and several humorous poets and essayists. And that’s to say nothing of its 20-minute conversion to a “musical improv” show in which a band called the Undercover Rabbis donned monstrous visages and jammed to a song they call “Our Numerous Tongues Shout with Resolve Towards an Empty Sky.” Why?

“Syllables sounded good next to each other,” said Steve Klett, senior English major and frontman of the Undercover Rabbis.

Undercover Rabbis was not alone in its baffling choice of name. It joined a host of other bands that serenaded ‘The Goods’ – the 14th act titled themselves Jose Jaime and the Best Valentine’s Day Ever and closers Nicole Pieri, junior English major, and Chris Hallberg, interactive multimedia and computer science double major, call their outfit Nicky and Chris and the Bipolar Cover Band.

Joining Jose Jaime and the Best Valentine’s Day Ever in filling the Rat with music were solo artists Cat Cosentino, senior communication studies major, Matt Huston, sophomore journalism major and Signal Arts and Entertainment Editor, Klett of Undercover Rabbis and, in a surprise addition, Ben Krupit, senior music education major, who stepped up to perform in the absence of a scheduled musician.

All played a few numbers on their acoustic guitars, startling the Rat with their strong, clear voices.

Cosentino played original numbers “Parallel,” “My Ending” and “Lethargy Apothecary,” a song she wrote after attending a Missy Higgins concert in New York.

“Her style definitely intrigued me, and that’s a lot of how I write – listening to other people and having an emotional response to it. That inspires me to write music,” Cosentino said. “My voice I can’t compare to anyone. But my influences, the people who are famous who got me into the swing of writing and performing, are No Doubt, Stevie Nicks and Jewel.”

Poetry abounded at ‘The Goods,’ with nine poets bringing their work to the mic. Katie Brenzel, sophomore English and journalism double major and Signal News Editor, and Noah Franz, sophomore history and international studies double major, began the day with their original work. They were followed by Samantha Zimbler, freshman English major, Nick Pelullo, senior history major, Rebecca Suzan, president of ink and senior English major, Esteban Martinez, junior interactive multimedia major, Lou Klein, junior statistics major, Rebecca Baum, junior English major and Duncan Slobodzian, senior English and secondary education major.

Their words graced patrons of the Rat that came and went throughout the day, garnering a crowd that ranged from a rapt few to a boisterous Meal Equiv-induced congregation.

They provoked and soothed, painted pictures and then ripped them apart, crafted sumptuous images of love, devastating scenes of treachery and a punk-infused descriptive epic.

“Let thine Casbah be rocked!” proclaimed Pelullo, reading a selection from the “mock epic (he’s) working on,” called “The Battle of Punks and Hippies.”

Reading short stories were students An-Chi Do, sophomore biology major, Nathan Fuller, junior self-designed film major and Tom Sales, 2008 alumni, who studied political science while at the College.

Rounding off the 20 performances was a scene known as “Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge,” from a Monty Python film, performed by Franz and Justin Mancini, sophomore English major.

At the end of a long day, members of the ink executive board, who remained once all other had gone, could look back on a long year of work preparing for that day with a smile, and did. The Goods was a celebration of the profound, the kooky, the offbeat, the lighthearted and the dire. And Suzan wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m interested in student art,” Suzan said. “I think that this is the perfect way to get student art out there to other students.”