Flarf poetry

Last updated

Flarf poetry was an avant-garde poetry movement of the early 21st century. The term Flarf was coined by the poet Gary Sullivan, who also wrote and published the earliest Flarf poems. [1] Its first practitioners, working in loose collaboration on an email mailing list, used an approach that rejected conventional standards of quality and explored subject matter and tonality not typically considered appropriate for poetry. One of their central methods, invented by Drew Gardner, was to mine the Internet with odd search terms then distill the results into often hilarious and sometimes disturbing poems, plays and other texts. [2]


Pioneers of the movement include Jordan Davis, Katie Degentesh, Drew Gardner, Nada Gordon, Mitch Highfill, Rodney Koeneke, Michael Magee, Sharon Mesmer, Mel Nichols, Katie F-S, K. Silem Mohammad, Rod Smith, Gary Sullivan and others.


Joyelle McSweeney wrote in the Constant Critic: [3]

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.

Joshua Clover wrote in The Claudius App: [4]

If both (conceptual poetry and flarf) are compelled by what we might term impoetic language, flarf seems interested in discovering the poetic within that field, finding the excess and alterity that once defined poetic language but now must be found elsewhere, within the circuits of ersatz fame and junkspeech, within the anonymized and reshuffled errancies of various machinic protocols (whether it is the Google search algorithm, or a purported human adapting herself to the imperatives of a virtual chatroom.

In 2007, Barrett Watten, a poet and cultural critic, long associated with the so-called Language poets observed that: [5]

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".

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, The Wall Street Journal 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 also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Theodore Roethke</span> Pulitzer Prize winning American poet (1908–1963)

Theodore Huebner Roethke was an American poet. He is regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential poets of his generation, having won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book The Waking, and the annual National Book Award for Poetry on two occasions: in 1959 for Words for the Wind, and posthumously in 1965 for The Far Field. His work was characterized by its introspection, rhythm and natural imagery.

Frankland Wilmot Davey, FRSC is a Canadian poet and scholar.

The Language poets are an avant-garde group or tendency in United States poetry that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The poets included: Bernadette Mayer, Leslie Scalapino, Stephen Rodefer, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Ron Silliman, Barrett Watten, Lyn Hejinian, Tom Mandel, Bob Perelman, Rae Armantrout, Alan Davies, Carla Harryman, Clark Coolidge, Hannah Weiner, Susan Howe, James Sherry, and Tina Darragh.

"The British Poetry Revival" is the general name given to a loose poetry movement in Britain that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The revival was a modernist-inspired reaction to the Movement's more conservative approach to British poetry. The poets included an older generation - Bob Cobbing, Paula Claire, Tom Raworth, Eric Mottram, Jeff Nuttall, Andrew Crozier, Lee Harwood, Allen Fisher, Iain Sinclair—and a younger generation: Paul Buck, Bill Griffiths, John Hall, John James, Gilbert Adair, Lawrence Upton, Peter Finch, Ulli Freer, Ken Edwards, Robert Gavin Hampson, Gavin Selerie, Frances Presley, Elaine Randell, Robert Sheppard, Adrian Clarke, Clive Fencott, Maggie O'Sullivan, Cris Cheek, Tony Lopez and Denise Riley.

Fulcrum Press was founded in London in the mid-1960s by medical student Stuart Montgomery and his wife Deirdre. Montgomery later became an eminent psychiatrist and expert in depression. Earning a reputation as the premier small press of the late 1960s to early '70s, Fulcrum published major American and British poets in the modernist and the avant-garde traditions in carefully designed books on good paper. The Fulcrum Press made a significant contribution to the British Poetry Revival and was one of the best known little presses of the period, recognized for publishing the works of Modernist poets including Ezra Pound, Basil Bunting, Allen Ginsberg and Roy Fisher.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sharon Olds</span> American poet

Sharon Olds is an American poet. Olds won the first San Francisco Poetry Center Award in 1980, the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award, and the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She teaches creative writing at New York University and is a previous director of the Creative Writing Program at NYU.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bernadette Mayer</span> American writer and artist (1945–2022)

Bernadette Mayer was an American poet, writer, and visual artist associated with both the Language poets and the New York School.

Kent Johnson (1955-2022) was an American poet, translator, critic, and anthologist. His work, much of it meta-fictional and/or satirical in approach, has provoked a notable measure of controversy and debate within English-language poetry circles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bob Perelman</span> American writer

Bob Perelman is an American poet, critic, editor, and teacher. He was an early exponent of the Language poets, an avant-garde movement, originating in the 1970s. He has helped shape a "formally adventurous, politically explicit poetic practice in the United States", according to one of his chroniclers. Perelman is professor of English emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joshua Clover</span> American journalist

Joshua Clover is a writer and a Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California Davis.

Bloodaxe Books is a British publishing house specializing in poetry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Linh Dinh</span> American writer and photographer

Linh Dinh is a Vietnamese-American poet, fiction writer, translator, and photographer.

Gabriel Gudding is an American poet, essayist, and translator.

Sharon Mesmer is a Polish-American poet, fiction writer, essayist and professor of creative writing. Her poetry collections are Annoying Diabetic Bitch, The Virgin Formica, Vertigo Seeks Affinities, Half Angel, Half Lunch and Crossing Second Avenue. Her fiction collections are Ma Vie à Yonago, In Ordinary Time and The Empty Quarter. She teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs of New York University and The New School. She has lived in Brooklyn, New York since 1988 and is a distant relative of Franz Anton Mesmer, proponent of animal magnetism and Otto Messmer, the American animator best known for creating Felix the Cat.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Kasey Silem Mohammad is an American poet and professor at Southern Oregon University. He is one of the Flarf poets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francesco Levato</span> American poet

Francesco Levato is a poet, a translator, and a new media artist. He received his MFA in Poetry from New England College and is currently working on his PhD in English Studies, Poetry, at Illinois State University. He is the founder and director of The Chicago School of Poetics, served as Executive Director of The Poetry Center of Chicago from 2007–2010, and currently serves as Cinépoetry Editor for Poetry International.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">BlazeVOX Books</span> American publishing company

BlazeVOX Books, often stylized as BlazeVOX [books], is an independent publisher founded by Geoffrey Gatza and based in Buffalo, New York. Since 2000, it has published more than 350 books of poetry and prose, most of which fall within the sphere of avant-garde literature.

Conceptual writing is a style of writing which relies on processes and experiments. This can include texts which may be reduced to a set of procedures, a generative instruction or constraint, or a "concept" which precedes and is considered more important than the resulting text(s). As a category, it is closely related to conceptual art.

Nada Gordon is an American poet. She is a pioneer of Flarf poetry and a founding member of the Flarf Collective.


  1. "How to Proceed in the Arts by Gary Sullivan". Publishers Weekly. November 2001.
  2. Shell Fischer (1 July 2009). "Can Flarf Ever Be Taken Seriously?" . Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  3. "Constant Critic – Joyelle McSweeney – Petroleum Hat" . Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  4. "Joshua Clover – Generals and Globetrotters – The Claudius App" . Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  5. How The Grand Piano Is Being Written Archived 2007-05-13 at the Wayback Machine .

Poems on-line

Audio and textual practice: essays and discussion

Music and performance

Flarf vs. Conceptualism controversy