Saturday, April 26, 2008

down with would-be sincerists

A little more than a year ago, back in February 2007, we hosted a "Flarf Festival," featuring--you guessed it--several Flarf poets. Nada Gordon, Mel Nichols, Rod Smith, Sharon Mesmer, and Gary Sullivan. Sullivan was the first to use the term Flarf to describe this kind of poetry, or, perhaps better put, this anti-poetic attitude. Audio recordings of the whole event and of each poem read by each poet are available on PennSound. I also did a podcast about this event.

What's Flarf? Easy enough to define, harder for some to appreciate, harder still perhaps for some of the flarfists to stay with it (in any particular sense) after the months or years of excitement about the mode has worn off. Then again, a number have managed to keep the excitement up.

Surely a flarfist himself or herself wrote the Wikipedia entry on "flarf poetry"; it's quite a good little essay on all this. "Its first practitioners practiced an aesthetic dedicated to the exploration of 'the inappropriate' in all of its guises. Their method was to mine the Internet with odd search terms then distill the results into often hilarious and sometimes disturbing poems, plays, and other texts." Joyelle McSweeney expressed my own relief and delight: "This is utterly tonic in a poetry field crowded by would-be sincerists unwilling to own up to their poems."

Flarf is alive and well, even as its definitions widen. I read Gary Sullivan's blog called "Elsewhere." This very weekend there's a conference being held in lower Manhattan. The title seems to be "2008 Holistic Expo & Peace Conference" but the poster announces "FLARF IS LIFE." Go to

And flarf is all over YouTube. Drew Gardner's performance of "Chicks Dig War" has been viewed 3,027 times - not bad for a poem.

And Michael Gottlieb has written well about flarf for Jacket.

At left: Drew Gardner performing "Chicks Dig War" at the 2006 Flarf Festival.