Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 21, September 2012)

Joel Scott

“And I know that this is hard, and I know it’s hard because you have the opportunity to connect, and you wanna connect with me, you want me to connect with him, and I wanna do that, but I, I have to use my process, and my process is to use the information, to show you that he’s here”

John Edward

“I’ve often told you that I am the most boring writer that has ever lived. If there were an Olympic sport for extreme boredom, I would get a gold medal. My books are impossible to read straight through… You don’t really need to read my books to get the idea of what they’re like; you just need to know the general concept.”

—Kenneth Goldsmith,
Letter to Bettina Funcke

“Conceptual poetry… often acts as an interface — returning the answer to a particular query; assembling, rearranging, and displaying information.”

—Craig Dworkin,
Against Expression:
An Anthology of Conceptual Writing

John Edward, ‘medium,’ is one of the more famous cold readers of the last 20 years or so. From ’99 to 2004 he had a show called Crossing Over, which was syndicated not just across the states, but also around the world. ‘Cold reading,’2 for people who are unfamiliar, is a technique used by magicians, mediums, etc. to give the appearance of either communicating with the dead, or being able to predict the future. To know the unknowable. The technique makes use of The Barnum Effect, which describes the tendency of people to accept generic personality profiles as uniquely accurate for them as individuals. Cold readers use this principle, but more interestingly, they employ certain language practices, which share a lot with certain conceptual writing practices. In fact, I want to actually call the language practice of John Edward and the like a kind of writing, a cold writing, perhaps. Like other conceptual writing though, it bears an unconventional relation to concepts like expression, meaning and representation.