Sunday, July 12, 2009

What the Flarf?

Cleveland's a great town for poetry.  But, one thing that we don't seem to have is Flarf.

Of course, that may be a good thing.

Flarf?  Serious?  You can't be serious.

The origins of flarf poetry are very similar to the origins of Wergle Flomp: deliberately bad poetry, written to prank the scam "contests" to see just how bad you can be, and still be praised.  But flarf evolved onward into something else, using google to generate word-associations for poetry, in a dada/burroughs sense.  The thing about flarf is, once you've started out with the idea that it's not an object of the poem for it to actually be good, you can write something that's, well-- if not good, interesting.

Heck, for a while it was hot that even Poetry Magazine was at it.  Of course, the flarfers seem to be a lot better at issuing semi-coherent manifestos than at actually doing poetry.  

It sounds interesting when they talk about it!  Kaplan P. Harris says (as quoted by Bruce Sterling ): "Words are fused and isolated, phrases are redacted and rearranged. The result is a poetic Frankenstein, part irreverence of Dada and part disjunction of Language poetry. The camp of gay performance art is in there, too. Nothing is (or claims to be) especially polished."

Cleveland's mostly a flarf-free zone.  Maybe that's good.

So, out there-- do any of you flarf?  Do you want to?


Shelley Chernin said...

Thanks for turning me onto Flarf. Kinda fun, and looks like some of the poets are serious about it. I read a poem by K. Silem Mohammad called The Led Zeppelin Experience that's definitely got energy.

mary Turzillo said...

So, I looked at all the links, but I couldn't find a set of directions on how to flarf. I mean, just in case I wanted to try it. Is it like, you just keep googling words and throwing them at each other until they make a bunch of words, preferably perky?

I liked the flarfs, though. They were really energetic and pleasantly content-free.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

I think that the technology of how to write flarf must be a closely-guarded secret of the flarf cabal.

However, here's an Actual Interview with a Six-Year-Old on the Topic of Flarf, which, I think, gives out a valuable clue:

Q: What do you think about the relationship between Flarf and Google?
A: Uh, there is really no such thing as a google in dada land. The googles are just the dada’s imaginary friends.

Philip Metres said...

I've written a whole sequence of poems called "Ibn Gitmo Flarf Cells." I live in Cleveland, and read some at The Lit last year. So, yes, we have Flarf in Cleveland.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Philip Metres wrote: "I've written a whole sequence of poems called "Ibn Gitmo Flarf Cells...."

Excellent! Cleveland flarfs!

Is it online anywhere I can link?


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau