7 mar. 2006

I am not sure where my anger comes from. I am tired of people attacking poetry I happen to like, and then turning around and claiming they are the ones with a broad, all-encompassing taste. They just care about the POETRY. There are no schools of POETRY, only POETRY, good or bad. That's fine, I agree--but then why turn around and declare large areas of the poetic field off-limits? Poetry that uses traditional modern techniques of parody, collage, pastiche, randomness, etc... (I say traditional because they have been around a long time already) doesn't count. It's not real poetry for these idiots. It doesn't "communicate" anything. Haven't we heard all this before? Isn't that what they said about The Tennis Court Oath?

So that's why I am declaring blog war on anyone who puts forward dumb arguments about poetry.

44 comentarios:

Julie Carter dijo...

If someone doesn't at least occasionally put forward dumb ideas about poetry, they probably aren't bothering to put forward any ideas about poetry at all.

Julie

C. Dale dijo...

Everyone needs to just take a step back. I understand your anger, Jonathan. You have every right to be annoyed. But let's be real, we all have opinions and people are going to say things we don't agree with. You can get fired up, which is fine, or you can be like a duck and let it wash off your back. Everyone is getting so charged up over Flarf it leads me to believe there must be a lot more there than people say, because if nothing was there, why all the angry talk. You are a fine critic. You like what you like. We respect you for that. Anyone can claim they have broad-taste. Anyone can claim anything. This has always been the case. So fuck em. Anyway, just chiming in with what is probably not a very helpful comment. And I like it when you get all fired up. If you are at AWP, find me in the bar and I'll buy you a drink.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

I posted this at Tony's blog, but I'll repost it here...

Jonathan, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but I gathered from Kasey Mohammed's definition of Flarf (at EPC) that it quite deliberately resists communicating anything. "The initial aesthetics of Flarf went largely unarticulated, but they can probably be approximated by the following recipe: deliberate shapelessness of content, form, spelling, and thought in general, with liberal borrowing from internet chat-room drivel and spam scripts, often with the intention of achieving a studied blend of the offensive, the sentimental, and the infantile."

And Gary Sullivan seems to have plenty to say regarding Flarf as an antidote to the rampant political correctness he perceives in other poetries.

Jonathan dijo...

Ginger: How does Kasey's description add up to a refusal to communicate? It seems to me a quite rich way of communicating quite a bit.

And C. Dale: words of wisdom as always. I'll take you up on that drink offer.

Matthew W. Schmeer dijo...

I think the anger that is directed towards Flarf is that flarfing makes it easy for anyone to claim to be a poet. Flarf seems to be the antithesis of craft. Or is it? It seems that Flarf is truly just a technological advance on dadaism and Duchamp's cut-ups. It makes for interesting experimentation, but unless there is a level of craft put into the work on the part of the poet, then it remains nothing but an experiment, a draft. I think the problem with Flarf is that too many drafts find their way to print (in ink or online) or performance as final poems.

I agree with your point in your previous post about poetry "being about the human condition,"--poetry should be about the human experience. Experience is separate from condition, and experience is wild and varied and can be communicated in words and is grounded in the intense analysis of the pauses of the every day. To look at the everyday in a new way is the realm of experimental poetry movements like flarf and Limited Fork Poetics.

But poets still must present poems in a way that readers can relate to those experiences. If the poem is nothing but signifiers without relation to actual signs--without even an indication that we are reassigning signifiers to new meanings within the text of the poem or a series of poems--then the poem doesn't deserve to be read. Poets must speak in a language which is accessible to a reader; Accessible doesn't mean "dumbed down," but somewhat comprehensible on a general level by a reader who does not have an intimate understanding of the experimental aesthetic. What is communciated by the writer must be understood by the reader. NASA is sending signals out into space, but we don't know if we any intelligent life receiving those signals are able to decode them and undestand them; communication can only occur when both the sender and receiver of the message can understand what is being transmitted.

I leave with two questions: Why do people who care about poetry devote their lives to reading, studying, and writing it and getting charged up when aesthetic differences arise? Why do we waste our time and energy and money pursuing degrees and chasing publication?

Ginger Heatter dijo...

I said "resists communication," because given the 'shapelessness of form, content, spelling, and thought' any communication taking place would, by definition, be accidental. But only according to this definition. There are certainly other forms of parody, collage, pastiche, etc. that don't renounce the goal of communication.

Jonathan dijo...

The "flarf as the antithesis of craft argument" has no legs. There is good and bad flarf like anything else: the poets shape their work; they don't just randomly dump the data they get from a google search unto the page.

And craft as it is used in normal mainstream work is a cover for dullness. There can be a legitimate reaction against "craft" when the word is simply a code-term for a certain prevalent style.

Jonathan dijo...

I think quite a bit of poetry in many styles resists communication to some extent. It must resist communication "almost successfully," to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. And, no, the communication here would not be accidental by definition, but deliberate, since the poet is choosing what to put forward, selecting the material. This processs of selection is itself an act of communication. Randomness at some point in the process of composition does not mean that the act of communication itself is random or unmotivated. That's a pretty elemental confusion.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

I'm sorry, Jonathan, but I do think you're trying to re-interpret Flarf in order to make its theories more palatable. The process you describe above is not terribly unlike the undergraduate workshop assigment in which students are asked to write a "found poem" using text stolen from any non-literary source. Flarf, however, is not simply a method of finding poems via Google. That much has been made abundantly clear by its creators.

Extra-textual motivations that aren't reflected in the text itself require context, don't they? I would question the degree to which the speech acts alone communicate anything when they can't or don't reach their target audience.

So Sullivan exposed a contest that everybody already knew was corrupt. So what?

Jonathan dijo...

You seem to be confusing two different sorts of speech act. That taking place in the poem and that taking place between text and reader. Obviously, the nightingale never hears Keats' ode. How could it? So communication in this poem doesn't take place, by your definition. Yet the poem communicates something to the reader. By the same token I can communicate to you simply by means of quotations from others. It doesn't matter what the original context of those speech acts was because I am creating a new act of speech, a new context. Quoting is also a communicative act, and, frankly, most flarf poems do fine in this respect. Certainly they are not more opaque than Lord Weary's Castle.

I am not reinterpreting flarf, but basing my conclusions on the actual texts I've read, not just on Gary's statements about the movement.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

What then, in your view, are some of the concrete difference between flarf and plain old collage?

Jonathan dijo...

There's no such thing as "plain old collage." There are only different forms of collage occuring at different points of artistic and literary history. Flarf is one of the forms postmodern collage and parody has taken.

In other words, collage and flarf do not coincide because not all collage is flarf historically speaking, and flarf is not ONLY collage. Also, you have to consider why the collage exists. What are the artistic reasons in each particular case. We don't do cubist collage because we aren't cubists, for example.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

By the way, I also think there are some valid aesthetic arguments to be made for AND against the affective/effectiveness of irony, randomness, and collage as poetic methods. And the arguments against aren't always merely reactionary. Holding a mirror up to--or ironically reflecting the dominant culture is one way of interacting with it, but it's not (as one tends to hear ad nauseum) necessarily the most authentic one.

Matthew W. Schmeer dijo...

I am not concerned with randomness in the process of composition. I'm a random writer myself. I start/stop ideas in the middle of sentences and paragraphs all the time and then must drag-and-drop to create something that makes sense and communicates my ideas.

The problem is not in the process, it is in the final product. The end result is random because the writer wants it to be random. But delibeerate miscommunication strikes me as so much intellectual masturbation. Language is a primary method of communication; if writers want to deliberately miscommunicate, then have no right to complain when they are misunderstood. And that is the problem with post-postmodern literary studies and contemporary poetics as such; we need English professors to decode the communications because they resist too much and confuse the hell out of people. And English profs have then in turn sacrificed poetry to the Gods of Theory, which then causes reactionary movements against Theory, and so we need theories to understand the reactionary movements. Ah, job security!

And I think you are missing Stevens's point of resisting "almost successfully": poets must refrain from communicating too much--from overloading their work with glurge and flarf--and focus on writing about what really matters. I think Stevens would be against Flarf for this very reason: it is kitchen sink poetics wherein everything is worth writing about. But if everything is worth writing about, then nothing is worth writing about.

Resisting communication has nothing to do with obfuscation and everything to do with putting the best words in the best order--a Romantic ideal, but one that persists because poetry should be contextually comprehendible.

I agree that the process of selection is itself an act of communication. But then we a don't have the context of those selections to discuss; we can only discuss what is presented to us on the page (yes, the heart of New Criticism, but there it is). Since we don't know the rhetorical context of the selection process--and even if a poet told us, well, we've been known to lie--we can't claim it as necessary to understand the poem.

Matthew W. Schmeer dijo...

Man, I am a terrible touch typist.

Jonathan dijo...

I wasn't missing Stevens' point, but making my own. That's why I put "communication" rather than "the intelligence." There are different kinds of difficult poetry, and Wallace Stevens' kind was one of them. I'm sure he would have hated flarf, but that's not that important to me. And "best words in the best order" is not a Romantic ideal at all.

We all know poetry communicates mainly by miscommunication; that's just a given. Direct statement in poetry is comparatively rare, isn't it?

Seth Abramson dijo...

Jonathan,

I'd like to be a productive member of this discussion. The post on my blog was ill-conceived; it was taken very seriously by a lot of folks when my intention had not been to have it taken very seriously. That was the reason I added the addendum clarifying that my position was, indeed, approximately that of R.J. McCaffery's, which is why I hadn't bothered to get into the nitty-gritty of a real analysis.

My feelings about "flarf" run something like this: we're always being told how the poetry world is very small. Why do poets so often publish folks they know, people ask? Because the poetry world is small, they're told, and it's true. It's small both in terms of the number of practitioners and the amount of space any given practitioner has to truly communicate his/her vision to others. In this sense, poetics is like politics; even liberals are concerned about our porous southern border--the difference is (i.e., between them and conservatives), liberals feel that immigration reform is like the 1000th most important priority the nation has right now, because a) deporting illegal aliens is not a great "moral cause" for liberals (as it is for the G.O.P.) because we're less likely to view them as criminals, and more likely to view them as desperately poor folks searching for a better life for their children, and b) there are so many other issues of greater moment: universal health care, better public education, a cleaner environment, reducing violent crime, cleaning up corruption in Washington, and so on.

Just so, flarf.

Neither I nor anyone else gets "upset" because flarf exists or because lots of folks (or some, at least) like flarf. Truth be told, I've no interest whatsoever in seriously attempting to cajole people about what is or is not poetry. I just don't care. Is flarf technically poetry? Yes. Do I value it, as poetry? No. You disagree. That's cool, it really doesn't bother me.

What I think is bothersome is when those who find flarf entertaining go on such a crusade to insert flarf into the canon that--like the debate over illegal immigration--it pushes out of the "small world" of poetry better and more interesting conversations. To those who see flarf as an ever-evolving vehicle for better and better literary expression: I salute you, wish you well, and am very interested in seeing what you come up with.

For those--and I won't name names here--who see flarf as something of a game, a fun way to poke poetry in the eye and be seen as "hip" or "fashion-forward" while doing so, I say: get serious. Let's have these important conversations about structure and cognition and meaning and memory and sense, but let's not trivialize the other 99% of poetic forms to do so. And if you look around at what someone else (not me!) first called flarfistas, you will see a lot of folks who continuously denigrate poetry they don't like--which, of course, is just about everything they don't personally read.

Jonathan, much of this blog--and similar blogs--is devoting to taking the piss out of poetry you don't like. I write one sarcastic little nothing post about flarf--on a blog which rarely discusses literary theory--and suddenly I'm the problem? Be fair.

You spend ten times more bandwidth knocking the poetry of folks like C. Dale (to use just one example of a poet who admits to having few "experimental" leanings; to an extent, I'm another) than I do knocking the poetry you enjoy.

How about this: you stop publicly hating and deriding so-called "mainstream" poetry, and I'll say not another word about "flarf."

Deal? I'm serious here. I want everyone to put their hatchets away and just respect that there's different strokes for different folks, and that while we can always discuss how we feel about certain forms, absolute derision is simply not becoming of any would-be intellectual--me or you.

S.

Henry Gould dijo...

I think there's a lot to flarf, and I don't think it's so easy to write.

But I don't think it came from nowhere, like the Creature from the Black Lagoon (though, obviously, It didn't come from "nowhere" either, having come from the B.L.).

I think there's a set of traditions which flarf draws upon for inspiration, & from which it emerges, like the Crea...

Basically, to put it very bluntly, I think Flarf descends from the truly archaic & ancient tradition of Gross-Out Art.

I respect it, but I wouldn't want to marry it - mainly because there's so much gross-out already in our contemporary world, why add more to it.

I heard Kasey Mohammad read his version here in Providence : it made me chuckle, I enjoyed the sheer stupid joyfulness of it, yet, as I said, I wouldn't want to marry it, because it all comes from the Black Lag...

Seth Abramson dijo...

Henry (and others),

Arguments about the canon are as old as that Black Lagoon...like any emerging form, "flarf" has its progenitors in Art, its loose if moderately-unifying principles, its practitioners, its "good" and "bad" incarnations, its own peculiar history, and so on. I've read a fair amount of flarf and have seen some poems I like more than others, some which work better than others as Art, which say more about the concept behind flarf than others do. I recognize and respect the Dadaist or collage-poetry forerunners of flarf. At the same time, that doesn't mean I, or anyone else, is necessarily going to militate for flarf having any substantive place in the canon, or in the ongoing dialogue that is Contemporary American Poetry--if only because there are those of us who find the form incredibly limiting, and who are wary of the fact that flarf supporters seem to spend as much time attacking flarf detractors as they do speaking positivistically [sic] about what they see in one flarf poem as opposed to another.

I think a productive thing to do would be to post a few flarf poems--we could do it here, we could do it on my blog, I don't care (you can choose the poems)--and we'll let people discuss what they see in them. Civilly!

How's that sound, as an idea? I'm serious about this idea, too. I think it could be educational for everyone, and might mend some fences.

S.

Henry Gould dijo...

It's not up to us what goes into the canon, Seth.

This is decided by a cabal of creatures dwelling at the bottom of the Black Lagoon - from which, I might add, all "emergent poetries" come forth, and into which all "residual poetries" sink.

Not everyone agrees with me, that we have no impact on the formation of canons, and that those who purport to be such "tastemakers" are actually wasting more of our time than the flarfistes themselves (& that's a lot of time).

But this is an argument (about the canon) which I have already had, ad-flarf-nauseam, in other venues, with other Lagoon surface-drifters.

Therefore I sink back into my stinking blog for the time being, & leave that debate for other muck-denizens.

Henry Gould dijo...

Though, I mudst say, one can, & perhaps should, protest against what the Lagoon Cabal proposes.

Yet the Cabal merely proposes; something even deeper & murkier than the Lagoon disposes.

Jonathan dijo...

I don't think that anyone has proposed to put flarf into the canon. Maybe I missed that. That would be a little premature, don't you think? As premature as deciding righ tnow to leave it out of the canon for all time. I don't think the canon forms instantly, contemporaneously, with the creation of literary works. That would be pretty amazing if it were the case.

As for trivializing mainstream poetry, don't you think that they've done that to themselves, simply by endless repetition?

I've never, ever criticized C. Dale Young's poetry on this blog. In the first place, he has the "blogger's exemption." In the second place, he's not famous enough to go after. In the third place, I don't think he's all that bad of a poet within his particular style. In fact, he's pretty good. Fourthly, I like him personally and he seems open-minded. I don't see him going out of his way to condemn styles of poetry he doesn't practice.

You don't like flarf because it reminds you of immigration reform? I'm not following you at all here. Be concise and cogent, please.

I get grief from people all the time when I criticize certain poetic styles. I just think it comes with the territory. You should expect the same. I don't see how I've been unfair to you. If you think my arguments suck, you can so say on your own blog too.

Jonathan dijo...

I liked your idea (Seth) of posting poems, but I have to go to the AWP and and don't have the time right now to select them. Plus, I think it's being done elsewhere as we speak.

Behrle, Prince of Trolls dijo...

Blog War [tm] is a trademark of the xxxjimmy Corporation in the United States and Canada. All rights reserved.

xxxjimmy

Anne Boyer dijo...

Seth,

Could you please say which books of flarf you have read and what your impressions of them were?

I have to admit that I am growing increasingly suspicious that the difference between flarf-haters / flarf-boosters is that flarf-haters have never read a book of flarf. If you have read, say, Petroleum Hat, and come to some conclusion it is not "Actual Poetry", I would be interested in learning what about the "inactual poems" lead you to this conclusion.

Anne

Nick dijo...

I sympathize with Anne's argument ("Tasty New Flarf! Try it, You'll Like It!") but.......If I assign a book by, say, Coolidge, or Stein, or whoever to 15 MFA students, I can tell you, some are going to read it and hate it. (Of course you might say "then they didn't _really_ read it"--which is unanswerable....) Flarf is aggressive: its very existence mocks a certain kind of earnestness. It's opposed to human decency! It hates hamsters! It hates _your aesthetic_! To paraphrase Adorno, it may turn out that the haters of flarf understand something important about it more clearly than those who pay it lip service....

Jack dijo...

This will echo Anne Boyer's thought about _books_ of flarf. The category is emerging, but what few samples we have are unique. There is nothing liike them: KSM's Deer Head Nation; DG's Pet Hat; and Rodney Koeneke's coming out very soon with a full book of flarf, musee mechanique, and that too will turn ear pairs into eversible petrie dishes. (And there will be more books, of course.) But these three demonstrate the _aggregate_ flu-affect of flarfism, or to mix metaphors, a most serious pinball cognitive gadgetry -- and I mean serious gagetry like what you find in the Akihabara -- invention that you can't turn off, that indeed links within and to itself from page 6, say, forward to page 75 (bing), individual titles applicable to dozens of poems (bing x n), poems squeezed out of other poems (bing - bing = 20), stem cells splattered over each line page after page, deliquently interrelated side effects rhizoming in voids. To take in flarf poem by poem is fatiguing and off target. Flarf is solo instrumentation for thousands of off color strings simultaneously, continuously snapping. You got to hear it in full.

Behrle, Prince of Trolls dijo...

I'd fuck Jack.

xxxjimmy

Jonathan dijo...

Brilliant points, folks. Keep the comments this perceptive.

Seth Abramson dijo...

Anne,

This conversation about flarf has moved so quickly--across so many different blogs--I'd like to bring you (and others) up to speed on where things stand before I address your post.

1. I've stated in several locations that my initial post at The Suburban Ecstasies ("It Ain't Your Parents Bad Poetry") was intended to be sarcastic in tone. As probably the only person in this entire debate who has received actual (serious) death threats within the last few weeks (relating to my professional work, not my poetry) I would have thought I'd be more--not less--likely to take my comment about "death threats [from flarfists]" seriously than anyone else in this entire brouhaha. As it turned out, even a post which claimed flarfists were making death threats against non-flarfists, which referenced reincarnation, and which made intentionally scurrilous and absurd generalizations about gorilla anuses and illegal drugs was taken seriously by flarfists. As to why flarfists, whose own work is so whimsical, would take a sarcastic post seriously with greater felicity than any non-flarfists did, I don't know how to explain it. I've suggested, elsewhere, that there's a natural degree of insecurity which comes from being a self-identified rebel--in any field--and that my post must have played inadvertantly on some insecurities I hadn't realized flarfists were so prone to.

2. I've since clarified something else I thought was clear from my post: that my "analysis" of flarf is roughly identical to that of R.J. McCaffery--meaning, it is a considered, literate, erudite, well-articulated critique, even if you or others disagree with it--and that the reason my original flarf post made no effort to address flarf seriously is because I had hyperlinked (in the first few words of the post) to another's analysis of the form, one which I felt covered all the bases I would otherwise have covered myself.

3. In view of the foregoing, I clarified that, in fact, my comment about "actual poetry" was a joke, and I frankly don't have much more to say to those without the necessary reading comprehension skills to see that. It was said in a wholly sarcastic post, and in a sarcastic tone, and I've no interest in being the arbiter of what is and isn't poetry (Hello, Henry). So I'll repeat what I said on this blog:

Is flarf technically poetry? Yes. Do I value it, as poetry? No. You disagree. That's cool, it really doesn't bother me.

4. I've written flarf myself, as recently as yesterday. I'd post it, but it's nasty and immature and profane (some of the features of flarf K. Silem Mohammad has discussed as organic to flarf, anyway) and while that doesn't bother me personally--in this context--I'm not looking to ramp up the blog war again, so I'll decline to post my flarf here or elsewhere.

5. I've conceded, in several locations, that flarf has its own particular historical context and forerunners and that it is not, in any sense, "outside" legitimate discourse about poetry, though I've questioned the utility of having the particular discourse that flarf generates through flarf (instead of, say, through prose) and have pointed out my belief that it's difficult for me personally to see the additional value the 836th flarf poem adds to the discussion--that is, how flarf is "expanded" itself, or "expands" the discussions it engenders, with each new exemplar of its particularized conceptualizations.

6. I think flarf is new enough, and ghettoized enough, and available enough on the web--you don't need me to point you toward all the websites which archive exemplars of it--that me reading a book of flarf is not the measurement by which you'd be able to tell whether I do or do not understand its prescriptions. Which is not my way of being obtuse: I haven't read a book of flarf--though I'd be interested to--but instead have availed myself of the fact (and it is a fact) that flarf has enjoyed 90% or more of its "tender years" in the very public forum of the online world. I believe it's only recently that folks such as Mohammad, Gardner, and Gordon have brought entire volumes of flarf into the print world (and even then, I can't say I think these books are as widely distributed as most other literary sub-genre's exemplars are).

7. I think there is general consensus that flarf is not "new." It was likely not "invented" by any of those who claim to have invented it. Even putting aside, say, Dadaism or collage poetry--and its brethren in the world of visual art--we probably wouldn't have to look much further to find in music the experiments of, say, Cage, or some of the smaller psychedelic bands, or Marc Bolan's 1971 "Electric Warrior" album with T. Rex (which was deliberately disposable, puerile, snide, and patchwork in terms of its mix-and-match lyrics; just Google-search them, start with "Planet Queen") to see that the concept behind flarf has been around in Art for a long, long time. So to presume that it's a difficult concept to grasp presumes, also, that it is so "new" one would need to make a particular study of the concept--across, say, several months or years--to even enter the dialogue. Those of us with a more anchored sense of the history of art need not do more than immerse themselves in the foundational literature of flarf, read a number of exemplars of flarf, observe/participate in the many debates over flarf, and try our own hand in creating flarf to get a handle on what the word may signify (I say "may," because some of the form's own progenitors have said "there is no such thing as flarf"). Ginger has pointed out elsewhere, I'll note--in a discourse with Jordan Davis, who's been very classy about it--that WCW also presaged in certain of his poems some of what we're now seeing with flarf.

Do I feel threatened by flarf? No. Do I consider myself a traditionalist? No. Do I think agreeing with poet-terrorists about flarf should cause anyone to condone their insidious behavior? No, I don't. I think those who can't behave civilly in intellectual conversations should be locked out of them, whichever side they take. And to the extent my own actions in this instance may have locked me out of this particular discourse in the sense that I can't be as productive to the discourse--now--as I would have liked, so be it. I made my bed and I'll lie in it. But I won't pretend a scoundrel is anything other than a scoundrel, or a form of poetry I have little emotional or aesthetic regard for is anything but precisely that. I hope you understand that for me this is a matter of integrity, not personal style.

S.

Seth Abramson dijo...

P.S. I actually wanted to add one more thing, Anne, and that is that I do understand what it is like to have the disfavored position in an argument, to feel as though the weight of the mainstream is pressing upon and usurping, on some level, one's own personal enjoyments and freedoms. I make a living (albeit not a very good one) taking the disfavored position in arguments (in the criminal justice system). So to those who love flarf I say, "I hear you, even if I don't agree." What's been personally troubling to me in this conversation--or debate, or war, whatever--is that flarfists who've never read a single recent poem of mine (let alone a whole book's worth, Anne) have labelled me a "traditionalist" just because I don't enjoy flarf personally. And I am not a traditionalist, or an aesthetic "conservative," or what have you, no matter how often that mantra's repeated by people who couldn't name 15 poems of mine by title (and I've written over 400 and published more than 150 of those). How many people would offer more grace to their adversaries in a debate than they're receiving themselves? It's incumbent upon underdogs to be better--in all respects--than their oppressors. If there's one thing I've learned as a PD, it's that.

Jonathan dijo...

I've read a poem by Seth. I just didn't want to go there.

Anne Boyer dijo...

Seth,

As you might be able to understand, I find it difficult to have a serious conversation about the aesthetics/politics/history of flarf with someone who seems willfully ignorant of the work. I do hope you'll do some reading. (& I'll admit I'm old fashioned-- I even expect my students to read the books before they write their papers / join class discussion.) Scoplaw's post gave no indication he'd actually read a book of Flarf either. What he was describing as a tendency of the AG -- the aesthetic vacuum created by artists to provide critics with something to fill -- seems to be exactly what "actual" Flarf so thrillingly rejects. I am in no way against critiques of the Avant Garde -- I make them myself -- I only like to see the critiques well supported & accurately aimed.

Oh & -- Wait! Do You know what all this reminds me of? some lines -- from A FLARF POEM! FROM AN ACTUAL BOOK O FLARF! (pet hat)


"they were funny-looking enough / to come home to McCarthyism / the fear of poetry/had absorbed the existentialist synapses/ of the most powerful and rich "

Anne

ps

& who are these flarfists you say are reacting to you? I see no members of the Flarf collective responding in your comment boxes. Are you trying to confuse us by calling everyone who disagrees with you a Flarfist? That is, indeed, very very confusing.

Ginger Heatter dijo...

Anne, scholars may be obligated to familiarize themselves more thoroughly with work they don't really like before talking about it, but the average reader isn't. I don't, for instance, have to listen to Brittney Spears's CDs to confidently state the music doesn't do anything for me. So too with certain poetries. It's not always the reader who fails to engage. Sometimes it's the work.

Seth Abramson dijo...

Jonathan,

And I've read a poem by you.

S.

Seth Abramson dijo...

Anne,

It's not a new debating technique to be forever raising the bar for entering the debate in the first instance, and it's not the most interesting technique I've seen employed, either. If those supporting flarf wanted to engage in a discussion of flarf, they would have spoken in a positivist manner about the concept and posted some exemplars. They didn't. Instead, we've spent all our time debating the qualifications of the entrants to the discussion rather than seeing whether the discussion itself could be, would be, or should be profitable. And as Ginger points out, flarf is not "owed" a readership; if it can't make itself relevant to those with some familiarity with flarf who are asking its practitioners to make it more relevant (rather than, as they are presently, merely cloistering themselves in an endless book publication/book consumption cycle amongst 20-30 poets), that's not the fault of the readership. The burden is on flarf to impress; it is not on me to impress you with how much flarf I've read or written.

I am not trying to confuse you. If you're saying Jim Behrle and Jonathan Mayhew are not flarfists, I think that they're the last ones to be informed of that fact.

Do you want to discuss flarf, or not? Right now it seems the answer is "no."

S.

Jonathan dijo...

I am not a flarfist and have never been one. I am defending it because I like it, but I'm not one of the group.

It's not a matter of qualifications as much as of good faith. If I'm debating the merits of a film with someone, and suddenly suspect the person has not seen that film, I have reason to not continue the discussion. He can't just say: 'I've seen the trailer."

Mike H dijo...

If someone wants to critique flarf, the burden is on them to have fucking read its practitioners!!

Ginger Heatter dijo...

Jonathan, the movie trailer analogy is specious at best. A poem isn't merely an advertisement for or an excerpt from a book. It's a complete work in itself.

Seth Abramson dijo...

Mike,

I've said it before. I'll say it again. I have. That you and others can't even read the words I write, or even agree on who's qualified to be considered a "flarfist"--God, you have to have published a book of it?--makes the point pretty clearly, I think, that neither you, nor others, wish to defend flarf. You want to innoculate it. Have fun with that. I really don't have patience for the back-and-forth anymore. At least not here; Thomas B. is the only flarfist I've found, yet, willing to engage anyone on the topic--a topic which, frankly, has already gotten much more airplay than it deserves, from me and from others.

I have a feeling that this conversation is literal proof of why so many readers of poetry prefer so-called "mainstream" writers (which encompasses, apparently, everything from Clampitt to Hoagland, from Harvey to Graham). To engage the self-identified rebels of any particular field, you have to wade through veritable gardens of bullshit, first. Is it worth it? Who knows. It's like wondering how many licks it takes to get to the bottom of a Tootsie Pop.

S.

Mike H dijo...

Its just that I've seen no proof that you have read flarf poets like Kasey Mohammad, Gary Sullivan, Nada Gordon, Drew Gardner in an in depth. You seem to have seen the 836th Flarf Poem and that's it. Why don't you just say what flarf you've read? This is all redundant and boring. And if you rip on something that alot of people happen to find challenging and important, you've gotta expect that those people are going to stick up for it. You're not addressing the actual poetry at all, and yet you decry how no one else is supposedly engaging the subject sufficiently. You're just talking about Flarf Flarf Flarf like its some green gas outside your window. I don't know what you're like in person and all that, but I think that your anitFlarf line is bullshit!

Matthew W. Schmeer dijo...

Seth:

42. But they have to be big, wet, luscious licks.

Anne Boyer dijo...

Seth,

Let's say we are talking about squid. Let's say you go on about how much you hate squid, how they are wicked, useless, ugly, etc. I'm upset -- I like squid, they are cute, they taste good, the remind me of the sea. Then let's say at some point you start going on about how squid have many windows, and you must get on an elevator to ride to the top of them. When I realize that you think squid are actually skyscrapers, it is likely that I will also realize your opinions on squid are funny or sad or weird, but not really that valid.

Just so you know -- Thomas is not in the Flarf collective. Jim is not in the Flarf collective. Jonathan is not in the Flarf collective. Neither is Tony. None of these people have claimed to be flarfists. The flarf collective is relatively small. Flarf is not "new" -- indeed, as poetic movements go, it is well into middle age.

Squid are not skyscrapers. But if you think they are, I suppose it makes sense why you think that squid/skyscrapers do not taste good fried.

Anne

Jonathan dijo...

Good job, Mike H., and A. Boyers. "Have a take, don't suck," that's all I ask. You don't have to read mountains of bullshit comments on my blog: just read the original texts and have something to say that's cogent, concise, and well-thought-out. I don't want to engage anyone on this topic who hasn't read Petroleum Hat and / or Deer Head Nation.