Required viewing for today's post:
Flarf. Not a lot of middle ground in Poetryland on flarf -- you either hate it or you quote it. Even the name is rage litmus. I’ve given up defending it -- as a logical consequence of language poetry, as a healthy reaction to the moralizing one-upmanship of poetry communities, as a way out of what I’ve referred to elsewhere as the cul de sac. Now I just watch it filter into the culture.
Not much else to do, really -- flarf is dead.
I caught up with flarf co-founder Gary Sullivan last week for a drink. "The whole idea of flarf was to make something that wasn’t boring. That was the whole reason for its existence. I think we accomplished that here and there and with the group as a whole. But to me, the whole idea is: stuff is boring. How in God’s name are we going to do something that isn’t that horrible, awful," and here he trailed off into a series of adjectives that indicated to me I had another complaint to file under Airburgers.
It's like anything else -- some of it I enjoyed then and enjoy now. Kasey Mohammad's Deer Head Nation, Katie Degentesh's Anger Scale, Nada Gordon's V. Imp held up the last time I read them. Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War" still sounds to me like a legitimate answer from Poetryland to the fake news shows on Comedy Central:
By now, flarf's preoccupations -- squid, sloths, overemotional reactions, sarcastic aimless protesting -- have all gone mainstream. A little more than a decade after the first google sculptures were circulated via e-mail, flarf is being taught in MFA workshops and undergraduate literature classes. And that's about it. There's no anthology, no movie or television show about it, the country didn't erupt into a decade-long orgy of experimental art and social upheaval because of it, nobody has even gotten tenure explaining it. It did prompt some anxious mentions in the TLS, though, which was nice. But as for book deals, after parties and portraits by the staircase at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble (I know, I know)? Do a Twitter search, and notice how many names of flarf poets are mentioned there.
I think that's what I like best about it. A group of poets got together and made a thing, and it stuck, and the poets more or less shared the credit for it. Because the work was slathered in profane and antisocial strangenesses, they sort of had to, in order to hold onto their livelihoods. Say what you will about flarf, that was a funny, happy, and to my mind admirable turn of events.
No, seriously, say what you will about flarf. In the comments, that is.