He said / She said !
He said / She said !
Flarf is a poetry movement practiced by about 30 poets and academics in the country, two of them in the Twin Cities.
First there was the art movement Fluxus. Then the marshmallow spread Fluffernutter. Now, meet two Twin Cities members of the Flarflist Collective, a group of poets spawned in the digital age. Reporter Diane Richard has the story.
NARRATOR Maria Damon has an intriguing way of describing the stick-in-your-eye poetry movement known as Flarf.
MARIA DAMON If laugh were an F word, it would be Flarf, because it sounds like laugh, larf, fluffy, kind of overly cutesy weird, nonsense baby talk. It sounds like freak, it sounds like fart, it sounds like barf. It just collapses everything that’s both endearingly cuddly and funny and ridiculous, and adolescent scatological humor at its most unabashed.
NARRATOR Damon is a professor of English literature at the University of Minnesota. On this summer night, she’s sitting across the table from the poet Elisabeth Workman.
ELISABETH WORKMAN For me, Flarf opens up so many possibilities in poetry, and with language too. So for me, it’s awesome bad.
NARRATOR The Flarflist Collective started in 2001 with a poem by Gary Sullivan. It begins like this:
[Read by Kevin Coyle]
Ooh yeah baby gonna shake & bake then take
AWWWWWWWL your monee, honee (tee hee)
NARRATOR Flarf has been poking a stick at everything overtly poetic, precious or profound, ever since.
DIANE So, how do you know if something is Flarf—or just bad poetry? [laughs]
MARIA Well, it depends on who wrote it, and the intent, I would say, more than who wrote it. The thing about Flarf is, it’s very knowing. It’s not bad poetry that thinks it’s good.
NARRATOR Flarfees, as Damon calls them, tend to be poetry insiders and beyond bookish. Workman’s poetry recently earned her a McKnight grant.
DIANE You’re an accomplished poet. You received an amazing grant to do your work. [Elisabeth: Hmm, hmm.] Will you practice Flarf exclusively moving forward, or do you do a combination of different types of poetry?
ELISABETH I think the line kind of blurs for me, because before I was part of the Flarf collective, the way I worked in poetry, I was interested in the inappropriate, the quote-unquote ugly, the irreverent, the awkward.
NARRATOR That interest explains how Workman and Damon came to be the Twin Cities’ twin Flarfees.
MARIA I actually adore stuff that other people wince at. That’s one reason I cherish Flarf so much, because here are some highly accomplished poets who embrace whatever is considered to be the bottom-feeding in the poetry world. They embrace it wholeheartedly with a kind of zest and affection that I feel very sincerely about this poetry. So it was like, I found my people.
NARRATOR Flarf poetry spreads via the Internet and at readings held at places like the Walker Art Center. Flarf has even landed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Yet there are only about 30 Flarfees in the country.
ELISABETH It was a huge honor to be invited to be a part of the group because really the most interesting living poets right now are part of this collective.
MARIA The people who do it are so enthusiastic about doing it and are very good at it, that it became a prominent part of the poetry landscape.
NARRATOR Much of Flarf’s inspiration draws from blogs and Web searches. Today, what Roget’s thesaurus is to beginning poets, Google is to Flarf.
ELISABETH Google sculpting is the phrase used to describe the process by which a lot of Flarf poems are created. It’s not the only mechanism for creating Flarf poems, but it is a dominant one. So for example, entering the words “reverence” plus “dwarf” plus “quiffing” results in a poem that I recently wrote about being pregnant.
NARRATOR That particular poem might curdle the public air waves. Still…
DIANE I would love to hear an original Elisabeth Workman.
MARIA Yes. Can you read my favorite?
ELISABETH I’ll read from the Ars Poetic. So I think this is going to begin the collection.
Visualize a forest, coppery violet, pulsating. Inside the forest is a looking egg. Peering into a little porthole at the end of the egg is a zealot. Inside the zealot is an antichrist. Inside the antichrist, poetry.
MARIA It’s so unbelievable. That last line, poetry. It’s like, O.K., I don’ t have to write another word for the rest of my life, because you just said it all.
NARRATOR To hear more Flarf poems, search for F-L-A-R-F at youtube.com. For KFAI, I’m Diane Richard.
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