In the ongoing battle to see which school of poetry can greater damage the reputation of the truly BEST American Poets -- the ones who, you know, actually read and write poems instead of watching poems, thinking them up and then performing them -- I ask you to consider these two contenders: Flarf and Slam.
Flarf, a poetic form born in the digital age, originally relied heavily on Google searches of random phrases to provide the raw materials for poems. The tension between the computer generated text and the poet's human point of view results in a mishmash of half-formed ideas that resemble to an alarming degree what's going on in the scrambled brains of those of us who live at least part time in a virtual world, while also inviting the reader or audience member to impose their own meaning on the poem. I like flarf for its playfulness, its dadaist tendencies, its resemblance to found poetry, which is something I've always loved. The only downside? I can hear my friend Katie Vagnino yelling in my head: "IT'S BULLSHIT!"
One of my favorite flarf poets, Sharon Mesmer:
Then there's slam, either the best thing or the worst thing ever to happen to poetry. Wonderful, in that it continues the oral tradition of poetry, and inspires a lot of young people to consider poetry in a new light. Terrible, in that a lot of it is speechifying, acting, and comedy; also, oh my god, that CADENCE. Here are some slammers who come highly recommended by my friends in that community.
I like this line by Buddy Wakefield, "Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past."
So which do you think is "better for poetry?" Which do you think is "worse?" And most importantly, what do you think is next?