An open letter to Kenneth Goldsmith from Anne Tardos

Anne Tardos and Jackson Mac Low, 1981.
Anne Tardos and Jackson Mac Low, 1981.

Dear Kenny,

Your piece “The Burden of Artists’ Crap” posted over a year ago in Harriet (, has just been brought to my attention. I am shocked and dismayed by your characterization of me. Kenny, we’ve been down this road before. Only weeks after Jackson’s death you publicly accused me of interfering with his legacy by not immediately publishing all his recordings on your web site. May I also remind you that later you apologized profusely for your behavior, albeit in private.

I feel compelled to comment on your profound misunderstanding of the partial sale of Jackson’s library. I have devoted years of my life to archiving Jackson’s papers and little known publications. His archive was placed at the Mandeville Special Collections at UCSD, two years ago. To make this possible, I had to organize his works with the assistance of several devoted young poets over many years. Without going through the immense amount of unsorted papers, and cataloguing them, no institution would have been able to recognize the scope of the work. As for the Mac Low library, I made extraordinary efforts to place it in its entirety with reputable institutions. I am saddened that you don‘t realize that parting with these books was heartbreaking for me, too. 

I hope it doesn’t embarrass you too much to know that the books you describe are duplicates. Perhaps you are unaware of the enormity of the collection, and that most of Jackson’s books are still in my possession. Your own books, the ones you are so sure were gone with the rest, and which you had inscribed to both of us, remain on a bookshelf next to my desk.

You write that “evidently the poet’s widow wanted to get rid of it all.” Your condescension is both reckless and misguided. The comparison you make with Charles Ives’s heirs is laughable. Are you not aware that Ives’s studio is being kept as it was during his lifetime, intact and complete at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which has meticulously recreated his studio, down to the radiator piping? Jackson wasn’t so lucky.

Your reference to my reasons for selling part of the library are too offensive to answer.

To bring you up to date, in addition to my own books of poetry, I am currently editing the third posthumous book of Jackson’s. I have also preserved and conserved all of his heretofore unknown visual works, some of which are currently on exhibit in major European museums and galleries, all over the world.

You and I have known each other for many years, and over those years I’ve discovered that conjecture formed from incomplete information nearly always proves wrong. The heartbreak of a friend’s death is one thing, but the heartbreak of maligning and vilifying a friend is quite another. I hesitate to characterize it.