Monday, June 18, 2007

Nautical homophonic puns (a flarf primer)

Alex Smith wrote in the other day to ask if I'd be willing to write a bit about flarf, as I've mentioned it a couple of times, both here and in conversation with him. I should probably begin with a list of caveats, the most significant of which is that I don't speak as a representative of flarf. Also, and as such, I'm not sure that I can offer anything that hasn't been said before, so I'll begin with a list of articles that might better perform the task at hand. It's probably best — though not necessary, per se — to read at least the first of these before continuing with my commentary, even if that means that the need for this blogpost is effectively negated.

"The Flarf Files," compiled by Michael Magee

"Jacket Flarf feature: Introduction," by Gary Sullivan

"The New Pandemonium: A Brief Overview of Flarf," by Rick Snyder

Mainstream Poetry, a blog of flarf poetry

— - — - —

Alex's inquiry hinges on — or opens with — a question of whether flarf is "bullshit," and this seems like an interesting enough avenue deeper into the matter. Of course, there are multiple ways the question might be taken: it could be read to get at whether Flarf, as a movement, is nothing more than "marketing" (a charge that has, as Gary Sullivan notes, been leveled against it). But I presume the question to get at a more fundamental issue, which is whether flarf is mere play, or worse, a joke played on the reader, or on poetry itself. Or, in contrast, if it implies a seriousness of purpose.

As has been often noted (e.g. in the official creation myth), flarf began as, if not bullshit, a joke played by Gary Sullivan on This origin survives in what might be identified as its central aesthetic principles, which have been variously described as: a "studied blend of the offensive, the sentimental, and the infantile" (K. Silem Mohammad); as something like camp, but "more awkward, sumbling, 'wrong'" (Gary Sullivan); as "a kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying, awfulness" (Sullivan again).

Nontheless, the statements in "The Flarf Files" and elsewhere indicate an underlying, if varied, seriousness. And it's when we approach the movement (or "movement," if you prefer) from this angle that it's at its most rich. Rick Snyder, writing of K. Silem Mohammad's Deer Head Nation, notes that the book can be interpreted — if not unproblematically — as an "attempt to undermine the legitimacy of American aggression by placing it in some fantastic landscape, a liminal dystopia likely culled from the internet," and remarks that it "present[s] a type of inchoate, violent rage [...] against the incoherence, idiocy, and violence exemplified by American domestic and foreign policy." This is paralleled in Magee's suggestion that flarf — or at least his own strain of it — is written under the sign of Frederick Douglass' admonition, that "at a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument is needed." Magee figures his own "scorching irony" in terms of an "interrogat[ion of] dumbness, ridiculousness, stupidity," and suggests the need "to work undercover in the middle of it, to pretend to be it if necessary, all the while reporting back to the reader."

Of course, not all flarfists describe the work performed by their aesthetic in terms of this aggressive "scorching irony," this slash-and-burn form of critique. Nada Gordon has suggested that "at least some 'flarf'" — and I presume this to mean her own — "is not about irony at all, but about pathos" and empathy, about the "recognition of a universal pathos: 'aren’t we all a bunch of fools, and isn’t that funny? and bittersweet? and fucked up?'" Snyder finds Gordon's V. Imp, and her writing in general, marked by "desire to maintain intimacy even in the face of increasingly a de-humanized world." A similar approach marks Magee's My Angie Dickinson, which works on the surface as a play between the high and low cultures of the two Dickinsons to which its title refers, but which its author describes as engaged in a practice of "dis-orientation and re-orientation" that works in part — through "shock, bewilderment, excitement, [and] pleasure" — as a rescue of Emily Dickinson's work from her readers' "pieties," which frequently threaten to reduce the poetry and render it precious.

— - — - —

[I'm not finished yet, and am already aware of certain failures in this post, some of which may be fatal. I itemize them here as a further set of caveats for the wary reader.
• I've only referred to a small segment of the "body of flarf." What is worse, I've over-represented the movement's male presence.
• I've risked misreading flarf's collectivist origins as a form of homogeneity, effacing distinctions between different strains of an aesthetic movement that is, as all are, in fact marked by a sometimes contentious diversity of approaches, perspectives, opinions.
• I've omitted reference to the tactic of Google-sculpting. This, though, is partially deliberate, as the practice is often too-closely identified with flarf, to the extent that non-flarf writers who use Google are forgotten or misunderstood as flarfists.
This in mind — yours and mine — I continue...

— - — - —

The "scorching irony" of certain strains of flarf might be considered (and I think has been already) in terms of Sianne Ngai's notion of a poetics of disgust.
A poetics of disgust would begin with this basic position: that there are at least as many things to turn away from as things to be drawn to and that this repulsion is worth thinking about seriously.
Put into practice, this entails a form of criticism: "not a moving toward the object, either to possess it or to be possessed by it, to engulf it or to be engulfed by it ... but a turning away," which is attended by a marked inarticulacy, the expression (= "pushing outward") of (as Ngai puts it) "language's raw matter (flow, gush, outpouring; inarticulate sound; 'something between a groan and a cry'; ow, help, no; woo, braah; smiles and shouts)."

An expression of repulsion and fatigue seems key to the poems in Deer Head Nation, and particularly to the opening of "False / Vodoun Democracy": "I can no longer fight the delusions of the majority." Here, the poem finds itself at the limit of critique, exhausted, but no less disgusted, by the state of the world. Elsewhere, poetry is shown to have been rendered impossible, as critique, as articulation, as thoughtful interpretation of the world:
my hobbies include

kidding myself into believing I am a poet,
trying to write: 'ack ack a dack
dack dack a ack ...'

In these failures, these poems demonstrate limits — both of the ability for Ngai's poetics of disgust to account for them, and of Snyder's assessment of Deer Head Nation as expressing "a type of inchoate, violent rage." As I read them, the poems also trouble Snyder's attempt to provide a clear line demarcating the difference between Gordon's and Mohammad's projects. In their reliance on the inchoate and inarticulate, a sense of mourning attaches itself to the failure of reasoned discourse, and of the difficulty of finding an alternate mode of articulation or expression. In considering the apparent cynicism of Deer Head Nation, and the failure of discourse the poems address, we might think here of Magee's reminders of the ease with which the state "co-opt[s] the language of dissent" to collapse its meaning. We might further extend this by substituting, as I have above, reasonable and reasoned discourse for dissent, noting that Magee's estimation of the current situation isn't dark enough, ack ack a dack.

But I'm reluctant, in the end, to describe Deer Head Nation (or other of flarf's most interesting works) as merely cynical. The sense of mourning is, when all is said and done, far too pronounced for cynical "cool." That's not to say that cynicism isn't part of the equation, but that it doesn't stop there; the poems' multiple and shifting valences include cynicism as only one of a gamut. Take, as perhaps the most pronounced example, the opening lines of "Puppy Craziness":
what we all really need is love
in these horrendous times
in this toxic atmosphere

Cynicism works by way of the poem's ironic distantiation, in its recognition that the solution suggested within these lines is woefully and painfully inadequate. It continues to work through the poem's lyric reiteration of the phrase "what we all really need," and in the increasingly trivial objects to which it attaches itself as it reminds us of the ways that the word "need" has been abused, torqued out of its meaning, by consumer society. And the ways that notions of love (and peace, which is integral to Deer Head Nation as a whole) have themselves been similarly reduced. The old ways of thinking, the poem reminds us, are inadequate; it cannot venture what might suffice to take their place.

The poem points to another inadequacy, as well: the failure for trite phrases like "horrendous times" and "toxic atmosphere" to account for the realities presented by the contemporary world. Again, poetry finds itself run up against its defamiliarizing task, its charge to provide some route towards understanding, and it is as though it cannot find an alternative, choosing instead to turn the vocabulary towards irony.

At the same time, cynicism and ironic distantiation are held in tension, if not at bay, by what the poem doesn't ever really shake: a fundamental pathos, a sense of hope, or at least a wish, perhaps (knowingly) futile, that, were it even available, love might somehow be enough, that a tool "which greatly reduces human error" could in some way suffice, that repairing the current scarcity of "information that will give us / an intellectual understanding" will do the trick.


Alex Smith said...

Certainly enlightening. I think some of my skepticism of the labeling of these certain poems as a movement (flarfetry) much more causally linked than before.

On the other hand, I do think people get excited when they get lumped into something that is getting attention.

Your point about language being inadequate to describe disgusting things was illuminating (though I wonder if 'toxic atmosphere' really was meant to be a reaching, comical attempt at grasping at straws, whereas 'horrendous times' certainly crosses that line).

Only time, in SOME ways, will tell regarding this. There are so many labels invented over the course of literature, some of which we just totally forget. One rarely thinks of the rise of Japanese Nationalist Chest-Thumping School when one reads Yosano Tekkan's marginal poems. Rather, they just think of him as the asshole who talked a lot of crap about poetry while his wife, Yosano Akiko, actually wrote good poems- completely outside of the nonsense of this parallel movement.

As such, I think that sometimes, though, again, I don't know enough of flarfetry to say, a 'movement-label' serves to buttress an otherwise lacking period of poetry. But you've definitely convinced me that flarfetry isn't just about cynicism or disgust or misuse or the impossibleness of language. It seems about all these things, and I thank you for taking the time out to do so.

Nathan Austin said...

As you point out, movement formation is always fraught with peril. Zukofsky's initial formulations of "Objectivism" place the group within scare quotes as if to resist the very action it performs. And, were one to make a list of all the Language poets who resist or reject the term outright, the list would be nearly as long as the group itself, to such an extent that it is a scholarly convention to refer to "so-called Language poets," and to qualify the term further by listing the applicable criteria.

And, as with any group, the movement's label is only partially useful -- as a sort of shorthand and little more -- to explaining a particular poet's work, or a particular poem for that matter. We can talk generally about Surrealism, and we can turn to the manifestoes in support of whatever claim we want to make about the movement, but we also have to look at the poems themselves, no? Surrealism, flarf, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E (or any other movement), then, become necessary contexts, but must always be regarded as incomplete in explaining a particular work.

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thank author for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting blog you've got here. Thanx for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to them. BTW, try to add some photos :). said...

أخبار منتديات بانوراما مصر

Anonymous said...

choose registry cleaner , Software program that scans the Your computer windows registry and looks for outdated and invalid entries.
Software frequently produce Registry entries for momentary data and pointers along with other files, but in no way erase them. In addition, , [url=choose registry cleaner][/url] if files are manually deleted with the user.
Registry entries may indicate files that don't exist. A Registry scanner can ahtvniwxnjnjnjnnjaw engage in a package of program utilities or even a stand-alone, choose registry cleaner software

Anonymous said...

I required some info and was searching on Lycos for it. I visited each of the top 5 pages that came up but didn’t get any relevant result... I then luckily found your diamond forum in the dirt and thought to check it out. This is what I was after

Cheers people at and keep your brilliant effort up.

[color=#3d81ee][URL=]bodybuilding[/URL] [URL=]Sports Supplements[/URL] [URL=]Sports Nutrition[/URL] [URL=]bodybuilding supplements[/URL] [/color]

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be down... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please reply to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.


Anonymous said...

[URL=]online dating personals[/URL]

Anonymous said...


I have a message for the webmaster/admin here at

Can I use some of the information from your post above if I give a link back to your website?


Anonymous said...


I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use some of the information from your blog post right above if I provide a link back to this site?


Anonymous said...


[url=]does meridia work[/url] dumeFuect

Anonymous said...

Hi - I am certainly happy to discover this. great job!

منتديات مصر توداى said...

مشاهدة قناة الجزيرة مصر بث مباشر اون لاين بدون تقطيع

منتديات مصر توداى

مصر توداى

اخبار مصر اليوم

اخر اخبار مصر

Anonymous said...

visit my sites and pages :ترددات قنوات النايل سات الجديدة
اخبار مصر صور نكت مصرية اغانى قنوات و ترددات اخبار الرياضة المصرية مشاهدة مباريات بث مباشر اسعار السيارات

Anonymous said...

Arian Foster Elite Jersey axiotakix
J.J. Watt Red Jersey axiotakix
Brian Urlacher Bears Jersey axiotakix

Anonymous said...

ï»?The game has three different ways of controlling the car: using the accelerometer by turning the iphone from side to side having a realistic feel to it[url=]Jason Witten Jersey[/url]
the use of the touch screen pressing the side of the screen that you want the car to travel to and last you use the touch screen to move a steering wheel side to side to control the car His absence gives them a chance to fix their disfunctional offense Retrieved January "Shilpa Shetty's mother defends daughter"If you wish to gain muscles in a smarter and faster way then there is a small piece of secret for youdittoTweet spanOur personal and collective joy/peace is dependent on how many sacred ethical actions we execute
ï»?A successful CEO is able to look at the whole project and break it down into manageable chunks to be accomplished by specific times 10 inches5 trillion[url=]Howie Long Jersey[/url]
a large portion of which has been documented by Wanta as stolen by operatives working for the Bush and Clinton anti-nationalist gang On July 30[url=]Jason Pierre Paul Womens Jersey[/url]
2011[url=]Calvin Johnson Womens Jersey[/url]
the Colts signed Manning to a 5 year[url=]Cam Newton Jersey[/url]
$90 million contract after negotiations in which he made it clear that he did not need to be the highest-paid player in the NFL It was to have a storied and lasting history as the longest surviving Hellenistic dynasty in the Mediterranean[url=]Cam Newton Womens Jersey[/url]
and play a role in the transition from Greek to Roman dominance in the ancient world The reasons are obvious: more visual effects[url=]Joe Montana 49ers Jersey[/url]
better console[url=]Cam Newton Authentic Jersey[/url]
incredible action[url=][/url]
and excellent game choices

Anonymous said...

It is an alkaloid Next week we should be at about 36'[url=]Brian Urlacher Jersey[/url]
give or take a foot they say All details with regards to the offers and amenities can be obtained from the company's official sitedittoTweet a:hover text-decoration: underline; pC In this phase[url=]Trent Richardson Jersey[/url]
tracking and reacting are the name of the gameThis once wide open division between four great teams has been dominated by the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles for the last decadeRunning is one of the easiest and least expensive sports to enjoy
If they were losing at halftime[url=]Calvin Johnson Authentic Jersey[/url]
we would go up to our rooms and say rosarytimestamp acom/profile_background_images/213805876/download However[url=]Walter Payton Jersey[/url]
if you are going to act as a cheerleader[url=]Ray Lewis Womens Jersey[/url]
it is suggested that you do not keep your hair long enough[url=]Walter Payton Jersey[/url]
to prevent it from coming over your face or simply become unmanageabledittoTweet spanThis is a top 10 of 2009's Hollywood Movies in terms of boxoffice success: there are comedy movies[url=]Jared Allen Authentic Jersey[/url]
romantic comedies[url=]Antonio Brown Jersey[/url]
dramas and animations Also[url=][/url]
intake of phenetermine while breastfeeding is not advised[url=][/url]
as the drug could potentially be passed on to the baby via breast milk[url=][/url]
and can result in unwanted effects

Anonymous said...

ï»?Blogs also get all the plugins in the world at the click of the mouse There exists such a rich history to these Grand Slam events[url=]Charles Woodson Womens Jersey[/url]
a history one can literally feel when you actually see it in person The death had a large impact on the family[url=]Lardarius Webb Jersey[/url]
and Andrew even has a tattoo on his forearm in memory of his uncledittoTweet spanPapaya - This fruit naturally contains high levels of vitamins A and C and minerals like potassium You knew the requisite porn star entry would be coming at some point
ï»?Presentday podiums[url=]Mario Williams Jersey[/url]
also referred to as lecterns[url=]Brandon Lloyd Jersey[/url]
are fabricated out of many materials that create a more contemporary look for the modern speaker I had never affected such wearing apparel and I had no beard they are in the back so if there is no wall behind the monitor the sound goes away from you instead of towards youThe sweat of it all is staying late at practice[url=]Ben Roethlisberger Jersey[/url]
regardless of the tempo and regardless of the burning muscles

Anonymous said...

Hello. Facebook takes a [url=]casino games[/url] venture on 888 casino apportion: Facebook is expanding its efforts to institute real-money gaming to millions of British users after announcing a order with the online gambling hard 888 Holdings.And Bye.

Anonymous said...

[url=]flac to mp3 free[/url]

Anonymous said...

[url=]acheter Framox en ligne
[/url][url=]amoxicilline durГ©e traitement
[/url] traitement infection urinaire amoxicillin
traitement angine par amoxicillin
amoxicilline pour chien

Anonymous said...

five secrets of living ebook down load gann ebook [url=]quickbooks for dummies ebook[/url] ebook reader iliad irex

Anonymous said...

Firstly you shoulF be aware From the reality oF internet marketing. There are many aFvertiseF proFucts all arounF an most oF them oFFer huge rewarFs For working a extremely Few hour[url=]Louis Vuitton Outlet/[/url]
This a marketing strategy in itselF anF is quite eFFective, which is why you can see it a lot.

Anonymous said...

[url=]ciclosporina rcm
[/url] buy Ciclosporina
purchasing Neoral
cyclosporine half life

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye. Thank you very much.

Anonymous said... - Learn how to turn $500 into $5,000 in a month!

[url=]Make Money Online[/url] - The Secret Reveled with Binary Option

Binary Options is the way to [url=]make money[/url] securely online

Anonymous said...

[url=]longchamp soldes[/url] One of the Up-to-date Mulberry Elkington Natural Leather Briefcase Black for Men,Quality Guarantee Mulberry Handbags UK! problems you may encounter with a rolling bag is the handle that is difficult to retract. Some handles are created light but easily break when pulled. Others are geared with a button that extends and retracts the handle at one push. I have been having problems with my blood sugars. Spent a night in the hospital because they were so high about 2 weeks ago. Long story short after a very long night there they went back down and they told me to follow up with my OB at my appt the following week.
[url=]sac longchamps[/url] Luckily, the time consumed within checking the number of shops for genre as well as the cost may well be avoided. All that alive takes just a few mins additionally the net. As compared to the variety of shops the Trendy Mulberry Women's Standard Alexa Leather Satchel Light Coffee Bag, we have been dedicating in this field for so many years and we have landed a great number of customers all around the world. thing indicated a person can go to Whilst on a shopping spree the buying websites visited for online wedge shoes is great as well as this particular too within a matter seize seconds.
[url=]sac longchamp moins cher[/url] Balenciaga is a fashion house founded by Cristóbal Balenciaga, a Spanish designer, born in the Basque Country, Spain. He had a reputation as a couturier of uncompromising standards and was referred to as "the master of us all" by Christian Dior. His bubble skirts and odd, feminine, yet ultra-modern shapes were trademarks of the house.. The second type of handbag user is one that alternates between two or more bags. This alternating process has to do with color, size of bag, and function for which the bag is being used on that particular day. This woman may be just as tough on her handbags as the user in the first category, but they last longer because her bags get breaks in between usage.. Any of these would make fabulous gifts for the girl in your life or for yourself if you Discount Women's Mulberry Bayswater Trimming Oxford & Leather Tote Bag Black for you, its mastery of fine materials are looking for something special for these special nights out. You will always feel fabulous when carrying a designer handbag with its trademark hardware and logo, and these monograms are always recognizable. You will not just feel great when you are carrying one of these but you will look great, and draw admiring glances wherever you are..

Anonymous said...

what is elements software wine software [url=]sirf demo software[/url] best free software for linux
[url=]Autres - Download OEM, Software Sale, OEM Software[/url] what are typical software design risks

Anonymous said...

pharmacy apothecary specialty pharmacy services [url=]pharmacy condoms[/url]
georgia pharmacy hague pharmacy norfolk virginia [url=]serevent[/url]
softtabs online pharmacy anthem pharmacy services [url=]target pharmacy online[/url]
bust customers of online pharmacy halpern pharmacy [url=]famvir[/url]

Anonymous said...

fantastic submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite experts of this sector do not notice this.
You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers' base already!

Also visit my homepage; Root Canal

Anonymous said...

fantastic submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite
experts of this sector do not notice this. You should proceed
your writing. I am confident, you have a great readers' base already!

Here is my blog; Root Canal

Anonymous said...

En ligne [url=] viagra[/url] cout pour [url=] viagra cout[/url] nom medical Viagra Prix [url=]acheter viagra[/url] couts Jelqing est un exercice manuel qui consiste à pousser le sang et la pression de la base du bassin et à travers le gland [url=]levitra prix[/url] Acheter en ligne

Anonymous said...

Yоuг οwn writе-up has proven
helpful to us. Іt’s quіte helpful and yοu're simply clearly very educated in this region. You possess popped my personal eye in order to varying views on this topic along with interesting and sound written content.

Feel free to surf to my blog post -
Review my web site : phentermine

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful that you are getting ideas from this post as well as from our discussion made at this time.

Also visit my page

Anonymous said...

who is faith evans dating elf sim dating game
dating sites jehovah's witnesses [url=]gay on line dating[/url] black gay males for dating
dating advicwe [url=]friend jump dating site[/url] e harmony dating [url=]shyam[/url] asain online dating sites

Anonymous said...

Depressionmedicationhelp Pharmacy, Anabolic steroids price list.
Prices of anabolic steroids. Buy anabolic steroids online. Anabolic steroids best buy.
Where can i buy anabolic steroids? How to buy anabolic steroids? Where to buy anabolic steroids?
[url=]depressionmedicationhelp Pharmacy[/url]