The Internet’s getting awfully Flarfy these days. “Flarfiste!” they’re calling and yelling. Because you know that when Poets & Writers
. . . and Poetry Magazine end up on the same thing at the same time, it’s got to be something . . .
So what is the current issue of Poetry Magazine going to do for/ with/ around/ because of/ Flarf & Conceptual Writing? Does it mean something other than the editors of Poetry Magazine wanting to do something different? (It’s only one issue, right?)
I’ve no idea, of course. No one ever does. Here’s the TOC, for reference:
You can read the poems online (if you missed the issue)!
K. Silem Mohammad
So I’m thinking of the Objectivist issue of Poetry, a million or so years ago. And before that, the Imagist wanderings in and around.
Well, Imagism had Pound, and (along with his million or so failings) he was an energetic, hungry sort, casting a wide net around writers barely unified (except as one could say, in opposition to Longfellow and Tennyson, I suppose). It was a great marketing tool.
Objectivism? Well, that didn’t flare up quite as well. Maybe it was the lack of a poster child. Or the authority of a few really aggressive, high-profile writers. Unfortunately. I really liked it. And what if Objectivism had been as big a hit as Imagism? (Among poets or whomever.) What would have come out of that?
Well, maybe it’s all one tradition anyway, as Oppen and WCW seem to get tossed into a line now, but it cost several interesting writers from getting the notice they deserved.
But anyway, Flarf & Conceptual Writing. Huh. It’s not much of a surprise for me to admit that I’ve always like of liked Flarf, in general. How could you not like something that allows you to say, “That’s Flarfy!” Many of those Flarfy things don’t work, or course, but many do.
And the word searches and replacements and recontextualizations of Flarf, we’ve had with us a long time. I write that way, though I’ve always thought of it more in terms of Cage’s “Chance Operations.” As (from Wikipedia):
In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as “a purposeless play” which is “an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living”
A lot of my friends write that way. Though I’d call it more like “purposeful play,” where the culture adds the actual “thing itself” to the construction of the poems. Very in line, I would think with the “direct treatment of the thing” form Pound, though, I think it was Barrett Watten , who said something like there is no direct treatment of the thing possible, unless it’s the things of language. Word searches allow that to happen in interesting ways.
And the mixing of high and low? One could talk about the Waste Land and quite a few poems by Ashbery (one could even talk about Kenneth Fearing, as well . . .).
But two things are unmistakable: 1. Flarf hit critical mass. 2. Name it something and it has a much better chance of being talked about. (In a way, I'm quite envious. I would LOVE to edit a section of Poetry Magazine. Who wouldn't? But what would I call it? Poetry I like? [that's mostly what Pound did, after all] I demand a named movement! Alas. Alas.)
[ADDENDUM: I've been thinking since I first posted this, and I've now, sadly, realized no named movement is going to be forthcoming. Who could I join up with? Kevin Prufer, Wayne Miller, and Hadara Bar-Nadav? We could call ourselves the Midwesternists? And then who would write the manifesto? Are people in the Midwest even allowed to write manifestos? The Heartlandists! How wholesome. You know? I think I must be going about this all wrong. Someone help me out?]
And now, once again, the material for poetry production has opened up. There’s always energy when things open up. And energy is a good thing for the art. And, well, it’s far better in my estimation, if the energy and press is going to something like Flarf & Conceptual Writing, than if it’s going to anthologies by Garrison Keillor.