So you won't find much technical
information here. Just my emotions :)
The Nicholas Gurley passage of "I Am Not the Pilot" (Tony Tost, Cortland Review 22, Feb. 2003) occupies seven lines (ll. 22-28) of a seventy line poem. The Maria Excerpt, which will concern us here, occupies eleven (ll. 44-54). These quantities are only interesting in their critical effects on Google searches, i.e., in so far as they determine the Googable properties of the poem. The Maria Excerpt is an especially interesting example of this effect.
If we enter line 45
into Google we get, at first pass, exactly one hit. Searches that return very few hits are normally indicative of high grade ideoplastic (the material from which good flarf is wrought) because it specifies a source. Compare, for example, the line immediately preceding this one, line 44.
Here you get 29 hits displayed, only the second to last of which is the real source, viz. Maria's page about skydiving (though the first, interestingly, is Tony's poem.) I don't want to say that nothing interesting can be gleaned from the content samples that Google provides (or even from clicking yourself onto the pages provided), but the sense of the line is rendered vague. The light the search sheds on the poem, we might say, is "diffuse": it has no clear focus, and the theme of the poem therefore loses its edge.
What is strange about a single hit in the case of line 45 is that "I Am Not the Pilot" is known to be available online and is not identified by Google. The mystery is solved by reading the fine print. Google has "omitted some entries very similar to the 1 already displayed" in order to "show you the most relevant results". And, sure enough, if we ask Google to repeat the search without this ommission, Tony's poem is hit. That is, the poem we are investigating is not, according to the machinery of the search engine, considered "relevant". Google was not able to distinguish Tony's poetry significantly from Maria's prose, which reads:
No, I am not a pilot. When I take off within the airplane and feel beneath my feet that lonely piece of the ground mysteriously flying in the sky my only desire is to leave it ASAP and fly "on my own". Because I know how my parachute works but know nothing about the strange sounds the airplane makes sometimes, what do that dozens of airplane indicators mean, what does the pilot thinks... So you won't find much technical information here. Just my emotions :)
Tony has fixed the language a little (Maria, it should be noted, is Russian) and, more importantly, has dropped the last two sentences (even though they refer back to the opening lines of his poem). I was struck by Tony's reading of K. Silem Mohammad's "Mars Needs Terrorists".
by fixing his general processes and sources, Mohammad presents as variables not his own emotions, thoughts and imaginings but (as noted above) those of his sources.
Flarf is a system of notation, but I am not sure that what it notes down are the emotions of the sources. Rather it uses the materials provided by others in their attempts to note, not just emotions, but thoughts and images, or simply inventories, lists, half-thoughts, exclamations, slogans, etc. The flarfist or flarfer may use three half-thoughts, two items off a list, a couple of loose emotions and an image to present (note), in the poem, a single, well-wrought and useful emotion. The emotions in the source are, I would argue, incidental to the poem--something which is often very clear once the source has been located.
In short, I think the first part of Tony's statement is correct. Flarf spares the reader the variable of the poet's own emotions. But the second part is not right, and that is not why the sources are interesting. What is interesting about the sources is their automatic availability to the reader. By using Googable sources, the poet makes the field of his sources surveyable, we are afforded a clear view of the grammar of the language that the poet uses and, in the usual way, "corrects", that is, "uses well".
The well-wroughtness of "I Am Not the Pilot" may be contrasted with less intense uses of the same language, whether in other poetry or in offhanded prose, like that of Maria. To return to Borges's observation about The Wasteland, I'd like to put the contrast more starkly than I did in the last post. If the "erudite obscurity" of modernist poetry disconcerts the critics (while giving them something to do), flarf should disconcert the critics (because it leaves them so little to do) with its rudimentary perspicuity. The difference between the un-wrought and the well-wrought word is on the surface of flarf, where it belongs.