"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Monday, March 06, 2006

Flarf, Jimmy, Seth, that other dude, et. al

You know, I actually agree with what Jimmy says about Seth and RJ's dismissal of flarf. That said, I've read little flarf that I care much about--but y'all are aware of my own dismissal of "most poetry." So be it.

But why oh why oh why does it have to escalate as it does? I mean--ah, whatever. So much wasted energy.


Ginger Heatter said...

You may be right. It may all be so much wasted energy, but (humor me), I think part of it may be political. It really strikes a nerve when experimental poets describe themselves as the aethetic Left (as opposed to?), or write the sort of things Joyelle McSweeney wrote in her review of Drew Gardner's book, "I love a movement that’s willing to describe its texts as "cute," let alone as "a kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness." The Flarfists may have the ultimate defense mechanism in calling their work "wrong" or bad writing, but at least they accurately describe it. This is utterly tonic in a poetry field crowded by would-be (small ess) sincerists unwilling to own up to their poems’ self-aggrandizing, sentimental, bloviating, or sexist tendencies."

And so on, to the point where wanting to make a human connection with readers or communicate anything whatsoever ends up being denounced as right-leaning conformism. That's a position that's hard *not* to respond to--particularly when one finds the political right so loathsome.

Jonathan said...

Everyone wants to make a "human connection with readers." That's a given. Everyone wants to "communicate." What I object to is people drawing lines around mainstream poetry and saying everything outside it fails to communicate or "make a human connection." Nobody but a battle-hardened language poet would say Ted Kooser is automatically right-wing because his poetry is within this mainstream. I just don't hear that argument much anymore. What I do hear is a lot of complaining about flarf, a movement which is in fact politically left-leaning.

Ginger Heatter said...

Jonathan, I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but I gathered from Kasey Mohammed's definition of Flarf (at EPC) that it quite deliberately resists communicating anything. "The initial aesthetics of Flarf went largely unarticulated, but they can probably be approximated by the following recipe: deliberate shapelessness of content, form, spelling, and thought in general, with liberal borrowing from internet chat-room drivel and spam scripts, often with the intention of achieving a studied blend of the offensive, the sentimental, and the infantile."

And Gary Sullivan seems to have plenty to say regarding Flarf as an antidote to the rampant political correctness he perceives in other poetries.

CLAY BANES said...

it's the new political correctness. watch your scorecard.

Seth Abramson said...


Don't worry, I'm not here to start a fight with with Jonathan or with anyone else. In fact I've posted what I hope is a pretty thoughtful sort of "olive branch" on my blog.

But I do have something to say about your post, above. What concerns me, Tony, is that instead of saying "I find myself disagreeing with Seth and RJ about flarf," you go out of your way to validate Jim's response to me on my blog. What's up with that? Here are selected clips from his first response (all of it was in this vein, so I'm curious to know which part specifically you find yourself "agreeing" with so heartily you saw fit to mention it):

are you a *total* asshole?

I think you are a giant asshole. And there's no 12 step program for that. Or being a lousy poet. So I guess you're just fucked, Seth.

In his second response, Jim called me a "dickhead" and threatened to "attack" me. Third response: "I'm sure I would find whatever [Seth] wrote yesterday to be completely inferior to any flarf."

Now, Jim also posted a poem in my wife-to-be's blogspace entitled "Poets are Pussies."

Here's where I find myself agreeing with him. If a poet finds it necessary to validate Jim rather than simply sidestep his nastiness and just take a stand on the academic issue at hand, well, that's some pussy behavior right there, isn't it?

Jim once said, on Foetry, that "I can say 'fuck you' to people's faces and they still love me."

No wonder. He's dealing with poets, who apparently can't take a courageous stand against even the most sickening sort of behavior.


Tony said...

Chill out, Seth. I guess I should have spoken (typed) more clearly.

I don't agree with Jim's methods. But to engage him as if a rational, civil discussion will ensue seems ridiculous to me.

What I meant was more eloquently expressed by Jonathan below.

It always just amazes me how up in arms people who are against "experimental" poetry get about "experimental" poetry. I mean, really, WHO CARES?

It's as if Flarf is threatening to take over and all the "regular" or (to use your extremely telling adjective) "real" poetry will disappear. You're tilting at windmills. RJ too.

I know and respect both of you, but can't for the life of me figure out why you cling so tenaciously to some ideal of perfect poetic practice that eschews anything resembling unconventional use of language or method or subject.

This is the sort of thing that drove me out of MFA land. It's myopic, it's intolerant, and it really does very little for those involved. Flarfists aren't going to stop flarfing because a couple of poet lawyer traditionalists tell them that their work isn't worthwhile.

And if you want to preach to the choir, (each other), do so--but it just strikes me as wasted breath.

If Jim (or anyone) insults your or abuses you or your fiance in your comment box, you have every right to do as you see fit. But to have a virtual fistfight over (ostensibly) flarf seems pretty dumb to me.

Ginger Heatter said...

I hope this doesn't sound too ingratiating, but one of the things I really like about "The Canary" is that it doesn't fall too neatly into either camp. I'm personally frustrated by what seems like cultishness on the both sides--the 'you're either in or out' mentality. In real life I have a thesis advisor who's trying to water down all my poems, and in blogland I'm taking pot-shots for my alleged conservativism.

CLAY BANES said...

everybody's up in arms like crimeless victims. i'm only worried about the school of frankie avalon and the school of the personal attack and the school of wynton marsalis and the school of the avant garde joining forces like four horsemen. then i'm definitely leaving the country.

Seth Abramson said...


I know and respect you, too--and respectfully, that answer leaves a lot to be desired, not least of which because no one's going to be awarded a Bronze Star for Valor anytime soon for saying of Jim's horrific conduct on my blog, "you have every right to do as you see fit" or "I don't agree with his methods." "Methods" suggests an admirable aim but a flawed process; if you can find an admirable aim in Jim's rantings, I'd love to hear it--because his psychotic bullshit strikes me as sufficiently abusive that no one should struggle to find the words to condemn it. So, yes, I think one thing poets should do more frequently is take a stand against psychopathic behavior in the blogosphere. By continuing to not take any ballsy stand against Jim's abusive attitude (not just towards me, but so many others), you're giving him license to continue.

Meanwhile--ironically--you're coming down on me for an aesthetic worldview you frankly have no idea whether I subscribe to or not. RJ and I may agree about "flarf," but we don't like the same poets or value the same things in poetry. I may not talk about poetry much on my blog, but that hardly makes me a traditionalist, right? And while I may have published in many "traditional" venues, more experimental markets like Colorado Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Verse, The Columbia Poetry Review, and jubilat have also seen fit to publish my work. Have you seen any of those poems? Or am I being solely judged on the drafts I post on my blog? Sounds like a vaguely Berhlesque worldview to me--he was calling me a "weak-assed open mic poet" in the same sentence in which he admitted having read only two poems by me (both from seven years ago). How is your commentary any more erudite than that? Do you know which poets I read and/or enjoy? Does merely editing The New Hampshire Review make me "for" or "against" a particular brand of poetry, when no one--except me and one other person--has seen the submissions to TNHR, and, as such, knows what we have and have not rejected?

You're ghettoizing me because I had a dismissive and sarcastic attitude about a form of concept poetry you don't even care about, a form of poetry I have such hard feelings about that within 24 hours I was repenting publicly on my blog and proactively seeking out flarf poets to "make the case" for flarf--or at least educate the rest of us about it (not that I hadn't made a pretty thorough study of it before I posted).

I'm not trying to come down hard on you, Tony, but your waffling baffles me. Is it so hard to say that psychopathic behavior is wrong? Is it so hard to say, "Hey, you know, I really don't know what Seth likes or dislikes, just based on his view of flarf"?

I've probably posted hundreds of blog-posts in the past 10 months. Can you tell me which one causes you to say I am "up in arms against experimental poetry"? [Do you consider New Sincerity "experimental" poetry? And if so, do you think Jonathan Mayhew does, too?]. Can you point me toward evidence that I think "Flarf is threatening to take over and all the regular or real poetry will disappear"? I said flarf was getting more airtime than it deserves; do a Google search, you'll see I've got a point.

I dunno, Tony...when I look around the blogosphere to find the most hateful, closed-minded poets around, I by and large find that most are supporters of "experimental" poetry. Which is no knock against that broad category of poetry, but an observation that calling these folks oppressed (by people like me, no less!) is absurd. You want to see someone (to use your words) "cling tenaciously to some ideal of perfect poetic practice," read Behrle's blog. Or Mayhew's. But to say you see that in my writings is malarkey and seems to again prove Behrle's point about poets being pussies. Why not knock Behrle for his conduct? Are you afraid he'll internet-stalk you, as he has others? I mean, sheesh, man.

I dismiss flarf, you write a post about it. Jim calls me a "total asshole" because we have an aesthetic difference, you offer tepid condolences. Then you call me "intolerant." And--with what proof?--a "traditionalist," which you intend as a swipe.

That's truly poor, Tony. Giving me some sort of "it's all good, man" type of response--that's just flaky.

I'm disappointed.

Behrle, Prince of Trolls said...

Ahem...in all fairness here, there's no fucking way that Tony standing up to me *in any way* would change my behavior at all. Ever. He seems like a good kid, but please. I'm not out to win popularity points with bloggers or collect blogroll mentions. That shit is weak nonsense.

That you have set out to enlist other people against me speaks to the complete weakness of your stance. I enlist no one and would prefer to stand alone against everyone.

My art is the hammer with which I will shape this great land, one pounding at a time. You went from dismissing flarf as not "actual" poetry to posting flarf on your blog in less than 48 hours after I did my radioactive monkey dance. Ends meets means: next time leave the cocaine out and I'll go a little easier on you: I do like being compared to your mentally ill clients, so play up that angle next time.


Seth Abramson said...


Just to disabuse you of one notion: I posted the flarf because of Jonathan Mayhew, Jordan Davis, and others. To the extent I held out even 48 hours before extending my hand to the flarfists, it's because I had to balance my respect for Mayhew and Davis and Robinson and others against my distaste for you.

As to mental illness: I'm not sure I know a single poet who isn't, and you may interpret that sentiment as expansively and inclusively as you like. I think I'm more fond of those with mental health issues than those without.


Behrle, Prince of Trolls said...


Now your girlfriend is writing flarf! Flarf has taken over your world! You'll thank me someday!

Get that murderer off!

I have no distaste for you at all--you're fun to fuck with...I should have done this a long time ago. It's like my very own writing workshop. Next you'll be reading The Dream Songs and writing without metaphors!