A couple days ago I was talking with a friend about electronic poetry as he had done a presentation on it when he had taken Contemporary Poetry a few years ago. I asked what all he had included in his presentation and along with hypertext and other common forms of electronic poetry, he had Flarf. I had never heard of this, and asked him to explain. He googled a poem and read me a poem by Gary Sullivan titled “Mm-hmm”:

Yeah, mm-hmm, it’s true
big birds make
big doo! I got fire inside
my “huppa”-chimp(TM)
gonna be agreessive, greasy aw yeah god
wanna DOOT! DOOT!
Pffffffffffffffffffffffffft! hey!
oooh yeah baby gonna shake & bake then take
AWWWWWL your monee, honee (tee hee)
uggah duggah buggah biggah buggah muggah
hey! hey! you stoopid Mick! get
off the paddy field and git
me some chocolate Quik
put a Q-tip in it and stir it up sick
pocka-mocka-chocka-locka-DING DONG
fuck! shit! piss! oh it’s so sad that
syndrome what’s it called tourette’s
make me HAI-EE! shout out loud
Cuz I love thee. Thank you God, for listening!

After I had finished laughing, my friend explained that the goal of Flarf was to create the worst possible poetry ever. When I later googled this genre, I discovered that many of the poets would use google search terms to aid them in gathering content for their poems, almost in a Google Poetics like manner.

While this genre of poetry may not be as closely tied to electronic literature, its reliance on the internet and much of how it is formed and pieced together is in accordance with other texts we’ve looked at this semester. I find this genre particularly interesting because even though the content is a lot of nonsense and is intended to be terrible, there is something about it that makes it almost good because of how bad it is.

In what I read about Flarf, there was mention of a series of poems they did in reaction to 9/11 where they took content from news articles around that time. I was unable to track down any poems from that collection, but the idea of using news from that period of emotional chaos our nation was experiencing sounded interesting. While some may consider that disrespectful to our country and all the victims of the attacks, I think the concept sounds interesting and very self-aware of the writing that typically comes from tragedy and chaos. A lot of writing that is initially written in reaction to events such as that isn’t necessarily a person’s strongest work, as it usually serves the greater purpose of being cathartic and helpful to organizing thoughts and emotions. Likewise, news sources that are eager to be the first to tell the story often publish articles that don’t offer much more information than what is already known or may offer up information that isn’t entirely accurate. Ultimately, this kind of content is ripe for Flarf and likely not just provides entertainment, but a commentary on what kind of work the world allows us to publish in times of tragedy.

  2 comments for “Flarf

  1. Grace Draper
    April 22, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I think Flarf is an interesting concept. It can be used to critique the seriousness of writing in some cases, being that many writers take themselves or the content too seriously on occasion. I like that Flarf gives a reason to write for fun, however I think it would be interesting to see how competitive Flarfs can or have become. I think that to have an artistic aspect to Flarf it would be counterproductive to just throw words around. Rather, I can imagine it still takes a fair amount of thought to put a Flarf together. That being said, I do still appreciate the silliness of the idea and the ability for it to bring us out of our own heads as writers and into a casual, fun world.

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