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Flarf poetry can be characterized as an avant garde poetry movement of the late 20th century and the early 21st century. Its first practitioners used an aesthetic dedicated to the exploration of "the inappropriate" in all of its guises. Their method, adapted from a technique of Drew Gardner's, was to mine the Internet with odd search terms then distill the results into often hilarious and sometimes disturbing poems, plays, and other texts.[1] The term Flarf was coined by the poet Gary Sullivan, who also wrote the earliest Flarf poem.[2] Pioneers of the movement include Katie Degentesh, Drew Gardner, Nada Gordon, Sharon Mesmer, Mel Nichols, K. Silem Mohammad, Michael Magee, Rodney Koeneke, Rod Smith, Gary Sullivan, and others.


Joyelle McSweeney wrote in the Constant Critic:

Jangly, cut-up textures, speediness, and bizarre trajectories - I love a movement that's willing to describe its texts as 'a kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.' This is utterly tonic in a poetry field crowded by would-be sincerists unwilling to own up to their poems' self-aggrandizing, sentimental, bloviating, or sexist tendencies.[3]

Dan Hoy wrote in Jacket Magazine:

The proliferation of flarf and its hybrids recycles an industrial era excitement over human 'progress' with no hesitance toward the embarrassing hubris of such a perspective. It's retro-Futurist, and it's indicative of their reliance on the virtual realm as a method of navigating reality... If there's a difference between flarf and its progenitors it's that Cage and Oulipo researched or created their generators of deterministic randomness, whether it be the I Ching, the weather, or mathematical formulas. They were aware of how each generator distinguished itself as a context and control variable, and their selection of each context and control variable was part of the content.[4]

In 2007, Barrett Watten, a poet and cultural critic, long associated with the so-called Language poets observed that:

It is precisely, however, to the degree that Flarf does something new performatively and with its use of the detritus of popular cultural and the internet, treading the high/low distinction until it breaks under the weight, that it reinvents the avant-garde. In a larger aesthetic economy, it seems, "the truth will out." Flarf's recent productivity shows how the injunction against the sentence, paragraph, narrative, and even discourse from some sectors of the Language school intersects with actual conditions of language use. Any such thing as stylistic norms in the avant-garde must inevitably intersect with "life." [5]

Discussion about Flarf has been broadcast by the BBC and NPR and published in magazines such as The Atlantic, Bookforum, The Constant Critic, Jacket, The Nation, Rain Taxi and The Village Voice. Further discussion has taken place on dozens of blogs and listservs across the United States, and in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Mexico, and elsewhere.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Poems on-line
Audio & textual practice
essays and discussion
Flarf vs. Conceptualism controversy
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