Thursday, March 30, 2006

Elite Flarf

I'm looking forward to seeing how R. J. McCaffery's still somewhat general indictment of Flarf as "elitist and obscure" and founded on "false consciousness", along with his endorsement of Dan Hoy's thesis, viz., that it "pretty much surrenders the technique of collage to a set of corporate algorithms (that control the rankings of the google search engine)", plays out in his analysis of particular poems.

One poem I'm rereading often these days is Gardner's "I Am So Stupid".

the garden will love me
the pollination will love me
that stupid girl from Sweden will love me
I can’t believe you slept with her

I need some of that sweet toxic love
pouring through my vernacular
how did I get so dumb? What’s wrong with me?
in the same way I love it, I also hate that I love it

I am so walking across a county
I am so stupid that I cannot rely on birds
I’d rather take a test

It seems to me that the only way to construe these lines as elitist and obscure (let alone "corporate") is to think they mean something very different than what is right there on the page.

I think the same can be said of another current favourite: Gary Sullivan's "On Speaking in Public". Here again, it is only if we suppose that "the point" of the poem is for someone to make an ass of themselves by "not getting it" that any sort of elitism would make sense. This, also, is why I resist the satirical construal of Flarf. I like it best when it's just saying what it's saying.

There must be a difference between writing top notch poetry and being elitist. Just as there must a difference between being in good shape and being a formalist.

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