The word “Flarf” makes me laugh. The idea itself makes me laugh a little, too. Flarf is a poem written with words from a search engine search. The results are surprising, nonsensical, confusing, shocking and sometimes funny. It is a lot like a Found poem, only with a purely technical, pro-active side.
What do Flarf poems mean? Perhaps the lack of meaning, the stolen, gibberish quality of the final poem is the point. The world is changing and so is poetry. Writers are responding to the manic influx of words, word arrangement and meaning.
While I don’t think I’ll be sending out Flarf poems for publication, I think the process presents a wonderful writing exercise opportunity.
As poet Drew Gardener said in “Can Flarf Ever Be Taken Seriously?” published in Poets & Writers Magazine, "What we were really doing was throwing out rules that were constraining and ridiculous and weren't fitting anymore. Once we did that, we could do whatever we wanted—we weren't trying to ask: Is this magazine going to like this? Is this poet going to like this? Is my teacher going to like this? We just got rid of all of it and went nuts."
To get your creative minds stretched this morning, I recommend trying to write a Flarf poem. Choose a few random words (perhaps from a blog or news website you log into every morning) and Google like crazy. See what you come up with. By cutting and pasting or writing in a notebook (so low-tech!) by your computer, write down the exciting, dull and even shocking words that you come up with. You can push the idea further through odd pairings. Start with a food blog and move to a politician’s homepage and then try an emo band’s myspace page.
The final step is to craft these words into a poem. Don’t work too hard to construct a meaningful poem with a final punch. Forget about grammar and sense. Go ahead, be sentimental and wild. See what new ideas break through.
To read more about Flarf, I recommend this article published in Poetry, “Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo: An introduction to the 21st Century's most controversial poetry movements” by Kenneth Goldsmith.
I hope you’ll share your experiences below.