On the surface all the gimmicks seem like, well, gimmicks, and suggests to me that the poet is avoiding any real involvement or effort with 'e (his or her) work. Seems a little lazy (which is of course an imposition of puritanical values on play and as such a rather useless statement). Perhaps, it might better be characterized as hopeful, or even wishful thinking. >
I haven't read a lot of flarf, nor do I consider myself a "flarfeur" -- I am wondering where my Hello Kitty poem falls on the spectrum, for example. But, as you know, some of these comments are fighting words I am likely to rise to a little bit.
The genesis story of flarf is that it was written in protest of poetry.com (that a deliberately bad poem was written using google and entered int heir anthology / publication gambit).
As you may see elsewhere on this blog, I share a business manager (through my fabulously hardworking writer husband) with Ray Manzarek, and thus Michael mcClure, perhaps the most infamous of those respected non-academic poets & performers who have received giant checks from poetry.com (among others).
I participate in the WOMPO list, which, before the genesis of flarf, had a discussion of poetry.com and the poetry workshop classroom -- well, because of this discussion, a bunch of WOMPOs began teaching writing a class bad poem or individual ones, and then entering them, in order to PROVE to students, who don't want to believe the terrible truth about poetry.com their utter capitalistic callowness.
I am also a poet in Los Angeles with a particular fondness for the efforts of Rick Lupert and Brendan Constantine. Rick Lupert is the first individual I know who wrote a deliberately bad poem and sent it to poetry.com -- not as a teaching point, just because. And then he read this poem and sometimes the responses -- contextualizing -- at numerous featured readings and open mikes here in LA, teaching the listeners the evils of poetry.com -- Rick is such an asset to that community here. This was years before this hullaballoo.
Even before that, I sent what was then a poem I considered one of my best -- it is in my current book LOCKET -- to the anthologies. Well, they just slaughtered it in proof, but it was already (the early 90's) a time when blues, etc. -- the old editorial process -- was disintegrating from the digial onslaught (partially economically based) of unbridled content / short deadlines.
I also want to mention before I go further that I always taught poetry.com and vanity publishing the hard way, with lots of contention, and that while former students have gone on to publish poems and books legitimately, and while many students -- including a wonderful poet from Detroit -- had spent literally thousands of dollars on poetry.com-related travel and other expenses for "awards banquets" -- other students went on to happily self-publish lots of chapbooks (as do the illustrious Mr. Lupert and Constantine).
And also that Kasey Mohammed has a serious academic poetical project involving the idea of badness and evaluation of poetry.
So flarf is not the first or perhaps the best test of badness and commercialism (and is not only one). I also remember a time that Nada and Gary and some others -- a brilliant choreographer in Portland whose name escapes me this second -- had been writing spam poems, before flarf, and I have always wondered if poet, publisher, musician Andrew Maxwell, one of SEVERAL LA google poets, in this locution being poets employed by google, have had, by virtue of their existance, influence on flarf practitioners, and what sort.
much of my work is of course about imposing personal meaning, and one of my problems with the HK poem is that there was a very specific meaning (it differed slightly from search engine to search engine and translation to translation) which was impervious to my attempts at control -- so I ended up trying to actualize and digest that (have I been in LA too long or what -- actualize); this is why the HK poem isn't flarf -- it takes place *after* the phantasm (or reproduction of it) has emerged
I would like to rise to the defense of my friends, and friends in poetry, but I feel that I'm not the best critic of flarf -- in my opinion, Kasey has made flarf into poetry, for example; his poems are not "mere" collage or found poems (as mine are not); if you've heard Nada read (she read with me at Belladonna in NY, along with Carolyn Bergvall) you know she is involved and present in her work -- perhaps not in the I = Nada, I really am writing about the cornfields around Iowa City 80's way, but, nevertheless....
for me, until I wrote the HK poem, my technology experience had led me to believe that flarf might be more about query writing than anyhting else; while in talks with Kasey, the search algorythms and indexes (of searched pages -- for example, google indexes the .info and some of the other newer extensions rather poorly) were things he's researched carefully and thoroughly -- the poetry ended up not being about the question -- this is one reason that my HK poem was not more centered on Japanese flavors of buddhism and religious questioning -- because they query ended up not being important to the construction, including the idea of questioning in the poem wouldn't crank it