Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WNW: Flarf

That is a real word. Seriously. And it's a bizarre child of the technology age.

More, it's a literary term . . . if you sort of stretch the definition of literary.

The definitions I've found for FLARF aren't that clear, at least to me. It's generally described as something like:

A form of digitally-inspired poetry, often generated from the results of Internet search engines.

Um, okay, what?

Here's how flarf works (from what I can tell; I still don't really get it):
Phrases from search engines like Google are used to spark a line of poetry. Often those lines are passed along from friend to friend, and the poem morphs. The piece of flarf takes on a life of its own, and in the end, you can't say who the original author was, because chances are, it was created by several people along the way as it evolved.

Yet I've found flarf with author attributions. (See? I don't get it.)

According to several articles I found online, the very first flarf piece began with these lines:

Oooh yeah baby gonna shake & bake then take

AWWWWWL your monee, honee (tee hee)

Ridiculous and pointless, no? Flarf has come a long way, though, because apparently it has since grown into an actual art form.

One of the most famous pieces of flarf began with the Google search terms "kitty" + "peace." It then morphed to "kitty" + "pizza." And now there's a piece of flarf poetry out there called "Kitty goes postal/wants pizza . . ."

I couldn't find the actual text anywhere, but I did find a link to a reading of it. Apparently there's an entire FLARF FESTIVAL. You can see the "Pizza Kitty" reading HERE from the festival on YouTube, as well as others from the festival.

(Turn the volume up, because the sound is pretty sad.)

The more I dug about, the more I realized that flarf is, more than anything, a community endeavor of creating new poetic works. Flarf has been published in poetry magazines. There are several books of flarf. And a flarf anthology will be published later this year. Flarf been around since about 2001, which makes me wonder why I hadn't heard of it until now.

(Possibly because I'm a techno-idiot and not a poet?)

According to Marjorie Perloff, quoted in an article in the New York Times, Flarf is a hip, digital reaction to the kind of boring, genteel poetry popular with everyday readers.

To read more about flarf, visit the NY Times article above as well as this piece from the Wall Street Journal and this post on the Modampo blog.

(Is it horrid that I find it funny that people who write flarf call themselves flarfists?)

7 comments:

Sarah M Eden said...

The word "flarf" is ridiculously fun to say.

Kristina P. said...

I really don't understand any of this, but I am with Sarah.

Kimberly said...

The human capacity for invention completely amazes me sometimes. The things we crazy creatures come up with. And in this case, the name even more than the "literary" pursuit.

I'm going to try to find a way to work "flarf" into casual conversation today . . .

wendy said...

FLARF --really??
I try not to do that in public.

Lara said...

Um, wow?

But, kinda cool.

And scary, all at the same time.

Rebecca said...

I'm with Wendy. That was my first impression! It sounds like something a genteel, southern lady might say if she accidentally...well...flarfed.

Jessica G. said...

Oh, please tell me they don't use texting-speak in flarf...

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