Prose from Poetry Magazine

Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo.

An introduction to the 21st Century's most controversial poetry movements.

by Kenneth Goldsmith

Start making sense. Disjunction is dead. The fragment, which ruled poetry for the past one hundred years, has left the building. Subjectivity, emotion, the body, and desire, as expressed in whole units of plain English with normative syntax, has returned. But not in ways you would imagine. This new poetry wears its sincerity on its sleeve . . . yet no one means a word of it. Come to think of it, no one’s really written a word of it. It’s been grabbed, cut, pasted, processed, machined, honed, flattened, repurposed, regurgitated, and reframed from the great mass of free-floating language out there just begging to be turned into poetry. Why atomize, shatter, and splay language into nonsensical shards when you can hoard, store, mold, squeeze, shovel, soil, scrub, package, and cram the stuff into towers of words and castles of language with a stroke of the keyboard? And what fun to wreck it: knock it down, hit delete, and start all over again. There’s a sense of gluttony, of joy, and of fun. Like kids at a touch table, we’re delighted to feel language again, to roll in it, to get our hands dirty. With so much available language, does anyone really need to write more? Instead, let’s just process what exists. Language as matter; language as material. How much did you say that paragraph weighed?

Our immersive digital environment demands new responses from writers. What does it mean to be a poet in the Internet age? These two movements, Flarf and Conceptual Writing, each formed over the past five years, are direct investigations to that end. And as different as they are, they have surprisingly come up with a set of similar solutions. Identity, for one, is up for grabs. Why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well by using someone else’s? And if your identity is not your own, then sincerity must be tossed out as well. Materiality, too, comes to the fore: the quantity of words seems to have more bearing on a poem than what they mean. Disposability, fluidity, and recycling: there’s a sense that these words aren’t meant for forever. Today they’re glued to a page but tomorrow they could re-emerge as a Facebook meme. Fusing the avant-garde impulses of the last century with the technologies of the present, these strategies propose an expanded field for twenty-first-century poetry. This new writing is not bound exclusively between pages of a book; it continually morphs from printed page to web page, from gallery space to science lab, from social spaces of poetry readings to social spaces of blogs. It is a poetics of flux, celebrating instability and uncertainty.

Yet for as much as the two movements have in common, they are very different. Unlike Conceptual Writing, where procedure may have as much to do with meaning as the form and content, Flarf is quasi-procedural and improvisatory. Many of the poems are “sculpted” from the results of Internet searches, often using words and phrases that the poet has gleaned from poems posted by other poets to the Flarflist e-mail listserv. By contrast Conceptual Writers try to emulate the workings and processes of the machine, feeling that the results will be good if the concept and execution of the poetic machine are good; there is no tolerance for improvisation or spontaneity.

Flarf plays Dionysus to Conceptual Writing’s Apollo. Flarf uses traditional poetic tropes (“taste” and “subjectivity”) and forms (stanza and verse) to turn these conventions inside out. Conceptual Writing rarely “looks” like poetry and uses its own subjectivity to construct a linguistic machine that words may be poured into; it cares little for the outcome. Flarf is hilarious. Conceptual Writing is dry. Flarf is the Land O’Lakes butter squaw; Conceptual Writing is the government’s nutritional label on the box. Flarf is Larry Rivers. Conceptual Writing is Andy Warhol. No matter. They’re two sides of the same coin. Choose your poison and embrace your guilty pleasure.KG

Jordan Davis Three Poems on Demand
Mel Nichols I Google Myself
Sharon Mesmer The Swiss Just Do Whatever
K. Silem Mohammad Poems About Trees
Nada Gordon Unicorn Believers Don’t Declare Fatwas
Drew Gardner Why do I hate Flarf so much?
Gary Sullivan Am I Emo?
A poetry comic.
Caroline Bergvall The Not Tale (Funeral)
Christian Bök The Great Order of the Universe
Robert Fitterman Directory
Kenneth Goldsmith Two Poems from “The Day”
Craig Dworkin Fact
Vanessa Place Miss Scarlett
Originally Published: July 1, 2009


On July 1, 2009 at 11:07am Michael Hessel-Mial wrote:
Yay! The conjoined twins are finally running in the same direction!

On July 1, 2009 at 11:49am Michael Gushue wrote:
The normal English spelling is Dionysus. The last vowel sound in Greek is closer to "oo" than "i."

On July 1, 2009 at 12:25pm LH wrote:
Great line-up, Kenny.

On July 1, 2009 at 4:58pm Kent Johnson wrote:
Dale Smith has an interesting and serious response to Kenny Goldsmith's Intro/Manifesto today at Possum Pouch:

His phrase for the phenomenon, a handy one for future reference, perhaps, is "F-Con Po." But read his essay.


On July 1, 2009 at 5:00pm wrote:
These are turning into catch-phrases Kenneth. Conceptual writing started 5 years ago? Really? How so?

Interesting you said conceptual... excuse me, C!onceptual Writing "uses its own subjectivity." So an object has its own subjectivity eh? That's interesting. And what I love the most is how you said "the object uses" (its own subjectivity).


On July 1, 2009 at 11:16pm Robert Barry Hass wrote: post-m....there's this thing in my post-post-m....excuse me, there's...once I had control over contex....excuse me, grhhhumph...excuse me...i just need a bit of direction, you choose....escusemuua...language is just a contex....language...hmmmmgh (in my throat) language is just....bug in my throat...water...excuse me...ghrrrrhuhuhu...this is the new poesy because...jesus, excuse me...this is terrible...I apologize...soon, not can't speak for myself...hmmphf...I can't speak for myself, but...hmmphf...I'm sure this'll clear up and soon I'll be able to...hmmphf...occasionally there's a pattern...hmmmmggg...jesus...we'll make this happen...we'll make this happen, hold on...okay, so we may be behind the times by forty years in terms of....haauuuuughhly shit....hold on...can someone get me...can someone get me something I can swallow...hold's what we are, it's a mirror of how we...hauuugh...jesus....hold a a post-rational...hold on I got this...we can fail in public and be given....excuse me...a stand, a place, because of who is afraid of missing us...excuse me...haughgghh...who is afraid of missing out on the new...I'm done, excuse me...the new being confused with...excuse me...

On July 2, 2009 at 12:14am Michael Ford wrote:
If conceptual writing is Andy Warhol, why are we talking about as if it were the next new thing in poetry? Conceptual writing's been dead for 22 years!

On July 2, 2009 at 6:31am Kent Johnson wrote:
So like where's the controversy?

Probably it's just poetry that's dead.

On July 2, 2009 at 6:40am (Not) Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

I am the weatherman. Black rain, and fire, and hail, will burst: O hear! I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

On July 2, 2009 at 6:48am Bob Dylan wrote:
How to Measure Windspeed and Direction by Licking Your Finger

1. Stand still. If you are moving, it will be difficult to get an accurate "reading".

2. Lick the ball of your finger, or moisten the ball of your finger with water.

3. Hold your finger straight out in front of you.

4. Take note of the direction. If you feel a chill on the ball of your finger, the wind is coming from that direction. If you do not feel the chill, rotate your finger 360 degrees, until you reach the angle where you feel wind chill. This is the wind direction.

5. Determine wind strength by strength of chill on your finger. It's best to try this technique several times with a known wind speed for practice.

On July 2, 2009 at 7:08am John Ashbery wrote:
Cobwebs and rhododendrons, it wasn't the
west wind, aiming a bow and arrow at a
star, that brought Eliso Virsaladze to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with a
Tootsie Roll Pop.

On July 2, 2009 at 8:39am Casey Smiff wrote:
The adverb why
Always ongoing
Silently explicating
Absently weaving
Cumquat narratives

On July 2, 2009 at 10:58am Possum Mirror wrote:
from Dale's blog, the prescient nut:

"The new yuppies are "alternative" "hipsters" so the new yuppie professors are sometimes these F-con-po fuckers. They are legitimizing their privilege with "noise" and "the internet," just as establishment poets in the past legitimized their privilege their privilege with "craft". They have their own new camoflage and are actually fool themselves more than the rest of us -- relying on metaphor here for shorthand."

On July 2, 2009 at 12:26pm Nick Demske wrote:
That's why love is so hot.

On July 2, 2009 at 12:30pm HenryJamesHenryJames wrote:
"What does it mean to be a poet in the
Internet age?"
Aparently it's using the means at hand
to sell yourself, since "work" pretty
much seems out of the question. So all
one's left with is a cultural signifier
selling its own brand / name.

"Identity, for one, is up for grabs."
But what's on offer isn't, not a bit; your
byline and the shopping list of writers
appended to this post only confirms it.
Art & poetry's personal playah politics
are as firmly entrenched as ever, if not
more in such practice, where in the end
you're doing little more than selling
your name / image /product in the
same old buy me, validate me,
promote me, love me, gluttonous daisy
chain of cultural capitalism. Another
product for consumption in the real and
virtual marketplaces. How much did
you say these paragraph payed?

Any such appropriation that stops
anywhere short of appropriating
identity itself is simply charlatanism
masquerading as the new avant-garde.
If the old "multiple names" anyone can
use, such as Monty Cantsin, Karen
Elliott, Luther Blissett, Alan Smithee et
al are too passe, unhip (or have
become attached to real people) for
y'all, might I suggest continuing to
subvert the name of the most popular,
most underappreciated, greatest,
worst, critically ignored, most incredibly
varied writer / troll / critic of all time --

On July 2, 2009 at 12:32pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Forgive my ignorance as I have never been hip, cool or any of that. Let alone savvy to sophistication of "modern" art and literature. Please just let me ask these questions:

How can a poem be a poem if it is not written BY the poet?

What's more how can a poem be a poem without sincerity, real emotion, allusion, allegory, or thought?

How can a poem be a poem if it is not true?

How can a poem be a poem if it is not a viggnette of the life and soul of the poet?

Isn't metaphor used to enhance the intent of the diction?

I am naive and truly confused, or perhaps my outlook on poetry is more biased to my "literary upbringing"; that is Chinese poetry.

So...doesn't the poem serve a function other that to be a "sculpture" of words?

Isn't a poem meant to be sung, recited, wailed or extolled?

Doesn't the poem need to have resonance with the hearts and minds of others, and therefore serve an important social function?

Perhaps I am an uneducated rustic for asking these questions, but could someone find it in their heart to answer these ignorant questions of mine?

Thank you.

On July 2, 2009 at 12:51pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:

1. Isn't the term "coneprtual writing" hyperbole? All writing is based on a concept or at least a paradign? Moreover a poem is based on "conceptions" and "images", is it not?

2. What exactly is "flarf"? What does this word mean? Where did it come from? Sorry I live overseas and have been out of the fold of new colloquialisms and I can't find this word in my dictionary of new English words. Could someone enlighten me, please?

Thank you.

On July 2, 2009 at 1:15pm stevenfama wrote:

Nice strong statement about what you and others are doing with writing. And as you know, I love the stuff (poetry) you and others write.

But I don't take to the claim that conceptual/flarf are "new." Nor to the directly implied idea that these ways of writing somehow trump any other given the world and the ways that came before.

Your books, Kenny, are great. So too others by other conceptual/flarf writers. But so too, just for example, are the poems by John Olson, Joseph Massey, Lisa Jarnot, etc. etc. I can't go with you in casting all the latter as something other than "new writing" or poetry that somehow doesn't respond to our "digital age."

In fact, that you make such claims suggests to me that you're trying to boost your own work to the exclusion of other ways of writing. Or are doing so as an act of provocation, to gain attention.

Does it really violate your world-view to say that conceptual/flarf are two ways of responding in writing to the world as it is, that there are plenty of other ways as well, and that poetry made via those other ways can be equally challenging, fun, and necessary?

On July 2, 2009 at 1:55pm Kent Johnson wrote:

(I tried posting a version of this, but it seems to have vanished.)

Those are good questions and it's good that you asked them here. I myself don't think that poetry necessarily needs to be based on the principles or motivations you list: Poetry is always changing and its nature is always being questioned. In fact, no one can really say what "poetry" really is.

Those who are critiquing the Flarf and Conceptual poets aren't doing so because of the methods they employ-- the methods have been around for a long time, and there's nothing particularly "cutting edge" about them, even though the poets in question would like you to think there is. What people are critiquing, rather, are the smug, elitist, and self-serving attitudes that underlie the particular applications and justifications of those methods.

It's excellent that you threw out these questions here.


On July 2, 2009 at 2:27pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

This Poetry Magazine feature spotlights two contemporary movements that are exploring technology in similar veins with very different results. But they're only two approaches. As you point out, there are many others working this way and, indeed, a comprehensive survey or anthology could -- and perhaps should -- be gathered.


On July 2, 2009 at 2:29pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

I have written a very basic, in-depth primer about Conceptual Poetics, which can be downloaded here as a PDF:


On July 2, 2009 at 2:40pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Dear Mr. Johnson:
Thank you so much for your reply. Indeed, many people and cultures have different yet sometimes similar ideas of what poetry is. Literature like religion after all occurs in a cultural conext. Since I generally expose myself to many contexts of culture and thought I tend to lean toward a more typological attitude towards literatrue, in particular poetry. What are its universals?
Perhaps the core of my assumptions is this:
Poetry must be honest. I must come from the writer's own psyche and diction.
Not that I'm necessarily crticizing other poets' work, I just don't really understand it. It seems incoherent and disjointed. Honestlty, it sounds and reads like the ramblings of mentally ill people or disaffected teenagers. Nothing at all like the the "whole units of plain English with normative syntax" mentioned in Mr. Goldsmth's article. What is it trying to say? Why is it trying to deliver a message in this way? What image is it trying to affect or present?
Now before any of the poets who write in this style role up their sleeves and answer this post with:

"You f*ing a*hole, what the f* do you know?"

Let me first present my disclaimer:
I studied literature as my major in college, but I studied Chinese literature in Taiwan. My literary upbringing is in CLASSICAL Chinese literature. As far as my own native language of English goes; I still have my head wrapped up in Tagore and Yeats. I have only recently started reading more modern literature (stuff published in the last 30 years) in either English or Chinese, so I am asking my questions out of ignorance and naivette. If Ezra Pound was alive today he would probably say I'm too stupid to ubderstand this poetry, and he would probably be right:)

On July 2, 2009 at 2:47pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Dear Mr. Goldsmith:

Thank you Mr. Glodsmith! I will read your PDF right away. Thank you very much!

Ivan Zimmer

On July 2, 2009 at 3:11pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Dear Mr. Goldsmith:
I just rad your explaination of conceptual poetry. Every thought and mode of expression contained within that explaination is diametricaly opposed to everything I was taught and considered good form, meaning and rhetoric to be.
However, I kind of get it now. Thank you for expanding my range of appreciation for modern English poetry.
Do you realize what you have done for me? You have helped me evolve from a dinosaur into a turkey.
So I guess now I can sit with the ghost of Marcel Duchamp, his picture of the Mona Lisa, a 32 oz. Big Gulp of Demitasse and ponder this form of poetry of which I'm not well aquainted.

Thank you for enlightening me!

Ivan Zimmer

On July 2, 2009 at 3:20pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Dear Mr. Zimmer:

I can answer all of your questions above in three words:

You are correct.

I wouldn't trade my Bentley for an Edsel.

On July 2, 2009 at 4:08pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
A Bentley is a truly grand and beautiful car. I prefer the Bentley. The Edsel is a curiosity at best.

On July 2, 2009 at 4:29pm Stephen Rodriguez wrote:

Tachnically, all writing can be poetry, as long as it's read or written as a poem. Just as all noises are music to the tuned listener.

Even something as spontaneous and meaningless as:

"Sand flower red angry survival."

is a poem.

On July 2, 2009 at 7:44pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
P.S. need to work on your typing others need to work on their poetic skills.


On July 2, 2009 at 7:57pm Michael Gushue wrote:
Thanks for correcting the spelling of Dionysus! It was bugging me.

As we all know, Dionysus allowed Agave to tear her son Pentheus into pieces, enthusiastically.

And Apollo had Marsyas flayed alive for being a not so good musician.

On July 2, 2009 at 10:24pm Flarf My Arse wrote:
Well of course, flarf came about because of a priori historical pressures in the continuum which runs from Homer to Silliman, a sort of overawed Apollonian venture into the unknown terrain in which the atelier of an artist as sooth-sayer is all up in the airness, a coming togetherness and mis-matched meanings marry more in the mode of Hammurabi than Mickey Mouse.

Dionysus v Disney, Fertility v Flarf, which some say is the art of being in the moment, totally suited to a life on the run, a world were we unzip and let loose the silk to billow and carry us along, and the toggles of our parachute we pull that steer us, only in our own way, uniquely, each and every one of us.

For flarf is a path to our own source of self and will not be a replica of anybody elses', and we learn to trust only with experience, the path our instinctive decisions lay along, and all we have to look back upon as the guide-lines to wherever we make up as the edifice of a pretend world others believe and buy into, or not.

Conceptual eloquence begins pre-verbal, the tweet of an idea that we aim for, and the highest stream is to speak it with love, some claim, others not, but training as language artists in an alluring Western ambience where pastoral and urbane intersect and vectors of cultural flux mesh serendipitously - there are enough of us proclaiming of poesie from the page, to station on every street corner, mountain peak and in all wooded glen, working every sector of the poetic spectrum poets' compose in to reach "there"; be it - quantitive, syllabic, accentual stress, combined metric slam, L=A=N=G=A=U=G=E, open form, tragic confessional, comedic, write-through, mental conceptual composition or flarf - and the techniques we come to possess and deploy with varying degrees of success, failure, loss and benefit, in the acquiring of skills which increase the consumptional capacity of our appetite for language until such time that we feel capable of, metaphorically eating the alphabet, surely is the goal reachable 15 years hence, when our dream of scoffing knowledge on lingo binges, feasting on linguistical fare, lashing our eyes full of letter nosh, sucking soundgrub into our ear's gut and ingesting text for regurgitation to "other" voices who passenger with us on life's shuttlebus of love - has come to pass, comrades?

On July 3, 2009 at 8:22am Tony Tost wrote:
I hear Goldsmith is planning to unveil his most audacious, bad boy conceptual poem yet, a formaldehyde tank with the word 'shark' inside. How does he do it? Wherever does he get these crazy ideas?

On July 3, 2009 at 10:27am Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Thank you, Mr. Fitzgerald for pointing out my careless typing. I really should be more careful and proofread before I post statements.
I hope no one takes my careless typing as a disrespectful attitude towards this forum/conversation.
My careless typing is merely the product of my big fingers lumbering over my small keyboard (when I should be busy with other matters) and not looking back to make sure my spelling and punctuation are correct.
Let express my apologies to anyone reading my posts.

On July 3, 2009 at 10:55am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

I apologize for using your typing as a foil for my sarcastic comment about the 'poetry' that is the subject of this post. I think you may be taking this reply thread a little too seriously.

You state that you are a student of classical Chinese literature. I am a Taoist.

Let us laugh.

On July 3, 2009 at 12:24pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Dear Mr. Fitzgerald:

If the Chinese doesn't show up, here's what I said: "I'm a Confucian, expressing my utmost respect---and quite sanctimonious alas! I will indeed laugh with you sir!

On July 3, 2009 at 2:19pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Confucius: Winter, Yin, electron.

Lao tzu: Summer, Yang, proton.

On July 3, 2009 at 2:29pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Ezra Pound and Dick Cheney were Confucians, weren't they?

On July 4, 2009 at 9:06am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Just having a (f)larf, Ivan.

On July 4, 2009 at 10:29am Adrian Slatcher wrote:
Really enjoyed this issue of Poetry - with the flarf & conceptual selections. All good fun. I've blogged more detailed-ly about this here. - Being in the UK, I do like to think there might be an international dimension to all of this.... Caroline Bergvall read in Manchester some time ago, and very much enjoyed that, regular innovative poetry night in the city.

On July 4, 2009 at 2:12pm Ian Spell wrote:
I like the idea of weighing paragraphs. It sounds like something Khlebnikov might advocate, albeit he would begin with the syllable, and, using proprietary techniques, calculate a mode of expression in which the playpen is merely one subset: as indeed flarf is of the conceptual.

On July 4, 2009 at 3:40pm Juan M. wrote:
After reading the poems I agree that the term flarf -- which conflates fart, lark, and laugh into one pointed term -- is apt.

As for "conceptual writing," from the PDF linked by Goldsmith: "Conceptual writing’s primary influences are Gertrude Stein’s densely unreadable texts, John Cage & Jackson Mac Low’s procedural compositions, and Andy Warhol’s epically unwatchable films."

The above is evident from the examples, but I especially enjoyed reading the PDF which is both humorous and itself a proponent of its own arguments. Do beware of imitative fallacy, however.

On July 4, 2009 at 3:47pm erika staiti wrote:
return of the manifesto
as the subjects gather round

lord help us.

On July 5, 2009 at 9:12am C. Clark wrote:

I enjoyed reading this article and your primer PDF (as linked to above). I wasn’t bored reading about conceptual writing. The flow of, what I imagine are, the usual questions went through my head, questions such as: ‘Do you ever feel inspired?’, ‘Why would you want to call the texts produced in this way poetry, in fact do you? In this essay it’s called conceptual “writing”…does it matter?’, ‘What are your intentions?’, ‘Is it all about the ownership, the “intervention” of the performer/producer of the texts?’ ‘Sex, fetish?’ ‘Is it a treatment for impotency, a way to feel one is still “writing”?’ –All questions that simply reveal more about my point of view, and aren’t really seeking an answer to a true question, questions that prove I’m a boring old fart and, having written them, I no longer require an answer. But I do have one real open question: You talk in your PDF primer about: “The endless cycle of textual fluidity: from imprisonment, to emancipation, back to imprisonment, then freed once more”. My question is: freed from what? Simply from the place where it once was?
And then I read on the webpage of Christian Bök’s ‘Eunoia’: “The text makes a Sisyphean spectacle of its labour, willfully crippling its language to show that, even under such improbably conditions of duress, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought.” Would it be fair to apply this conclusion to all the products of conceptual writing and flarf? Sorry, that’s two questions.
Thank you!

On July 5, 2009 at 3:11pm Kent Johnson wrote:
For another (decidedly incipient, less Lit-Market-attentive) take on the Conceptual, check out the post today "Community Reports, Vol 1":

Temporary Autonomous Poetic Zones!

On July 5, 2009 at 5:03pm Arif Khan wrote:
"Identity, for one, is up for grabs. "


On July 5, 2009 at 5:08pm Arif Khan wrote:
If there's any future for the so-called
avant-garde it will have to take a closer
look at globalization and culture. There's
is the most full of shit essay I've read all
week. Thanks for the laugh.

On July 6, 2009 at 4:48pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

Hi Arif, I'm not sure how words that are entirely appropriated from global networks can't help but be closely intertwined with globalization and culture. Kenneth

On July 6, 2009 at 4:49pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:
Thank you for your comments, C. Clark. When I talk about textual fluidity, I'm referring to a textual ecology that makes a play between text that is housed locally on a non-networked and that which is in play and exposed to various processes when it is being bounced around on a network. When housed locally, text can be frozen in storage; then it becomes fluid when socialized on the network.

I'm not sure that I would like to call these texts "poetry," which is why I refer to them as Conceptual Writing. However, the poetry world is the only one that welcomed this type of writing -- the art world and fiction world wouldn't have us -- so I feel very much in debt and a great deal of gratitude toward the poetry world. I owe its openness it a lot.

There is a difference between, say, conceptual art an conceptual writing (as it's being constructed today); conceptual art (and Oulipo) were about propositions and potential. Due to the greatly increased materiality and abundance of language today, we must mimic those workings by realizing these ideas as opposed to simply theorizing them; our processes must imitate the way machines treat language if we wish to engage in a meaningful dialogue.

On July 6, 2009 at 7:19pm Michael wrote:
Arif, why are you calling Kenny Goldsmith
a "cracker"?

Jews aren't crackers.

I'm a cracker.

You need to come up with a slightly
different racial epithet if you want to
attack Kenny's ethnicity.

On July 6, 2009 at 10:23pm kt wrote:
i think flarf is ridiculous and i dislike it, but
neither do i like the epithet "cracker." i
think we can hate on the manifestos
without resorting to ad hominem attacks,
yes? least, i know I can.

On July 7, 2009 at 9:54am ADR wrote:
While cracker has become an epithet for
some, I am from Northern Florida where
the term may have originated. It's a
kind of cowboy here, or more generally,
an early Florida homesteader (see
Cracker architecture:

In my poetry travels, I have noticed
that Northerners generally consider the
word offensive (the mention of Cracker
Swamp, only a few miles from where I
sit now, is poorly received). However,
my Minorcan/Cracker ancestry leads me
to feel otherwise.

That said, I am not sure that Kenneth
Goldsmith is a Cracker. Though he
might be. Are you Kenny? Either way, I
wouldn't feel offended if someone called
you a Cracker, or if he/she called me a
Cracker, or if you called me a Cracker,
or if you turn out to be a Cracker, and I
call you a Cracker.

On July 7, 2009 at 10:36am msp wrote:

On July 7, 2009 at 12:23pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
I think some the science based "conceptual writing" is very interesting. However, some of the "flarf" poems are as I said before, reminiscent of the rambling of mentally ill people or dissaffected teenagers. In particular, the flarf poem above "The Swiss Do Whatever" is incredibly offensive (and I'm not even Swiss!).
I don't have a "big" problem with other peoples words being strung together, but literary genre aside, those words should mean something, or at least should be trying to present some kind of central idea/vision/thought etc.

Nevertheless, all forms of expression should have the right to exist, even flarf might evole into a worthwhile poetic/literary form in time.

Conceptual writing should have a place as well, because some pieces of this kind of writing though cumbersome to read through do activate one's thinking and reflection. That's okay. Not that I'm a "real" poet, I just read and write poetry (though my poems have never been published). So if conceptual writing needs a home, then the world of poetry might as well be its home.

As for the gentleman Mr. Rodriguez who states anything can be a poem, I must respectfully dissagree. If that is the case than anything can be prose, a novel or a script for matter.
Just imagine:

Mary: looolooo waaa dog!
John: zoozabah! winkwinkwangidooodle cat!

For the person tuned to "this kind of avant-garde (I hate that word, what's wrong with the English "advance guard" or "experimental"; why we alls gotta use French) theatre" then this would be the epitomy of art. Huh?

Literature must have a purpose. I must spek to the human soul. It must have resonance with sombody, somewhere, sometime. Which is why I would never agree to anyone's "art" being outcast. Literature has forms and genres, styles and modes. Most of all, literature serves a social funtion. It is a meeting of minds and a mode of 'intelligent' communication.

To Mr. Fitzgerald :

Ezra Pound was NOT a Confucian. He tried translating Classical Chinese literature with less than adequate Chinese-English and Chinese Latin dictionaries full of mistakes as well as Japanese English dictionaries that focused more on vernacular Japanese. That would be trying to translate the Greek classics and the Hebrew through Russian using communist party approved Russian-English dictionaries adding your own twist on what you think the writings SHOULD mean instead of what they DO mean. Ezra Pound understood a little Japanese and no Chinese. In fact, he didn't even really understand to much about Chinese literature and culture, let alone on how to use Chinese thesauri and rhyme books produced over the last 2,000 years. He did have a slight pediliction to Confucuan thought, but not enough to be Confucian.
(Remember, Confucian does not denote a religion. It donotes a sort of secular philosophy that stresses social/familial resonsibility, education and service but occurs in the Chinese cultural context, one that is continually evolving.)
Ezra Pound was also overcome with the "East Mystique" that says: Everything "Oriental" is more sublime, superior and spiritual than any "Western" rubbish. Therefore, "Oriental" things are advanced, better and just closer to utopia than the "material Western/American world". Alot of people come here to Taiwan with that attitude. It IS VERY silly and wholly untrue. People in Eastern Asia are just as materialistic as we are. Everyone loves money, right?

As for Dick Cheney being a Confucuan, I think if he were, he would have advocated making American schools the best in the world and making sure no American was in poverty.
I don't think Dick Cheney was a Confucian. He might have been Taoist thought (philosophy, not religion). After all, didin't Lao-Tzu say: "The ruler regards the people as straw dogs"?

Just teasing back! Don't get upset. If you would give me your e-mail, perhaps you and I could have more interesting conversations, Mr. Fitzgerald. You seem like an interesting person:)

On July 8, 2009 at 10:39am Arif Khan wrote:
"Identity, for one, is up for grabs. Why
use your own words when you can
express yourself just as well by using
someone else’s?"

Dear Mr. G--

Can you explain this to your audience?
I used the word "cracker" playfully and
self-reflexively, exactly in the same
manner as how a flarfist deploys
identity. I wanted to fix the author's
subjectivity. I'm surprised you and
others took it personally. You write like
someone attempting to make a

Jews are basically white in America.

The term "cracker" has many
connotations and its use of it in my
response was meant to be ambiguous.

Any one who thinks 'identity is up for
grabs' who even uses that phrase has
got to be someone fucked in the head.
What does that mean, 'up for grabs?'

Kent Johnson and others can comment
much more of globalization, culture and
hegemony. The ways in which the web
becomes a place where other cultures,
other languages and other 'minor'
discourses become flattened. How does
flarf and conceptual poetry deal with
the way that certain languages,
histories are dominant on the web?

Jews are basically white in America.

On July 8, 2009 at 11:08am Arif Khan wrote:
More nuanced analysis here:

"Leaving this tricky issue aside,
Brodkin's narrative proceeds to
explain how Jews once again
became white. Amidst America's
postwar economic boom, there was
an expanded need for
professional, technical, and
managerial labor, and Jews and other
previously "nonwhite" Europeans
rushed into these positions,
joining the emerging middle class.
Unlike African Americans, who
continued to be regarded as
"natural" members of the underclass,
the new middle-class workers were
"cleansed" of their previous
racialized status. Brodkin admits
that she cannot account for
this development with a
unidirectional causal analysis. "As with
most chicken and egg problems,"
she writes, "it is hard to know
which came first. Did Jews and other
Euro-ethnics become white
because they became middle-class?
... Or did being incorporated
into an expanded version of
whiteness open up the economic doors
to middle-class status? Clearly, both
tendencies were at work"
(36). What is beyond doubt, Brodkin
insists, is that Jews
increasingly benefited from the
array of social policies
instituted to aid the rising middle
class, among them education
subsidies (i.e., the GI bill) and loans
from the Federal Housing
Administration (FHA). Needless to
say, such benefits were not
extended in the same proportion to
African Americans."

All best,

Arif Khan

On July 8, 2009 at 11:14am Arif Khan (II) wrote:
Main Entry: crack·er
Pronunciation: \ˈkra-kər\
Function: noun
Date: 15th century
1 chiefly dialect : a bragging liar :
2 : something that makes a cracking or
snapping noise: as a : firecracker b :
the snapping end of a whiplash :
snapper c : a paper holder for a party
favor that pops when the ends are
pulled sharply
3 plural : nutcracker
4 : a dry thin crispy baked bread
product that may be leavened or
5 a usually disparaging : a poor usually
Southern white b capitalized : a native
or resident of Florida or Georgia —used
as a nickname
6 : the equipment in which cracking (as
of petroleum) is carried out
7 : hacker 4

On July 8, 2009 at 1:55pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Talk about the literature!
Mr.Khan should use better judgement when using terms that he deems "ambiguous", but are in fact quite loaded and are interpreted in a single sence.

Why are you people talking about race? What a stupid conversation!

Experimental writing is worth talking about, asking about, and commenting on. Or in my case criticizing/exploring.

Racial comments are offensive. Is the ghost of a young political Ezra Pound haunting these webpages?

Don't get me wrong, I understand and appreciate Pound's poetics. They are in part why I got intersted in literature. His politics however...

On July 8, 2009 at 3:05pm Arif Khan wrote:

I am wondering how Mr. Goldsmith and other conceptual and flarf poets conceptualizes identity. That's all. There's nothing fascist about my earnest question. "Identity, for one, is up for grabs. Why use your own words when you can express yourself just as well by using someone else’s? And if your identity is not your own, then sincerity must be tossed out as well. Materiality, too, comes to the fore: the quantity of words seems to have more bearing on a poem than what they mean." If flarf can play with racial slurs, why can't I? If identity is thrown out the window and I can occupy any subject position, why can't I also play in the language sand box with the other boys? My gut says: "this is bullshit" and sometimes gets ahead of itself. I'll try to write more critically in the future. Any one who claims to be above their identity is, of course, a liar. Much of this subjectless/agentless identity talk is performed by white, middle class folks who have nothing better to do with their time. It is really more of the white, transcendental ego marking identities as it elusively escapes interrogating its own presence. This elusive notion of identity easily marks other bodies and gains capital by being 'left,' or 'antiracist,' profeminist or proqueer. So my "cracker" joke was simply turning that ostensible invisibility back to itself. I don't espouse some sort of identity politics position. However, I find a lot of this recent poetry ignores the substantial gains made by identity politics. All of this was already discussed a couple of summers ago so there's no use going over that. Any way, I couldn't care less about Goldsmith, or flarf or conceptual poetics, so feel free to erase my comment if it is offensive to you or Goldsmith. If the avant-garde ever moves forward it will have to come to terms with identity. It will have to start making more connections between marked bodies. From below. Not simply try to transcend identity with banal, over-the-top proclamations that only apply to white folks. I find "identity is up for grabs" offensive, and I hope Mr. Goldsmith will try to explain himself. If there ever is a real avant-garde movement this century it will emerge from the global South. All that we can do as diasporic marked bodies is hold the energy for that.

On July 9, 2009 at 7:10am Robert wrote:
"Anyone who claims to be above their identity is a liar"

Presumably you mean "born-into" identity.

In which case, the transgendered are "liars"?

Glad to see that the Poetry Foundation had the foresight to delete your earlier rant against Jews.


On July 9, 2009 at 10:31am Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Mr. Khan:

I agree with most of your critque above.

On July 9, 2009 at 11:33am Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:

The identity politics battles of the past twenty years have done wonders and have given voice to many that have been denied. And there is still so much work to be done: so many voices are still marginalized and ignored. It's a long road ahead and every effort must be made to be made to ensure that those who have something to say have a place to say it and an audience to hear it. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated.

Identity is a slippery thing and no single approach can nail it. Also, citing the need for difference, we're never going to feel the same way on anything -- a good thing. We all come from different places and circumstances, which is something to be celebrated. To be prescriptive or to make generalizations regarding circumstances of economies, classes, religions and races is counterproductive.

I really don't think that there's a stable or essential me. I am an amalgamation of so many things: books I've read, movies I've seen, televisions shows I've watched, all the exchange and sharing of thoughts during conversations with people -- the melding of our minds, the song lyrics I've heard, the lovers I've loved. The discussion that we're having right now is changing and challenging who I thought I was profoundly. And for that I'm grateful.

In fact, I'm a creation of many people and many ideas to the point where I feel that I've actually had very few original thoughts and ideas; to think that any of this was original would be blindingly egotistical. Sometimes I'll think that I've had an original thought or feeling and then, at 2 a.m. while watching an old movie on TV that I hadn't seen in many years, the protagonist will spout something that I had previously claimed as my own. In other words, I took his words (which, of course, weren't really "his words" at all), internalized them and made them my own. This happens all the time.

Often -- mostly unconsciously -- I'll model my identity of myself on some image that I've been pitched to by an advertisement. When I'm trying on clothes in a store, I will bring forth that image that I've seen in an ad and mentally insert myself and my image into it. It's all fantasy. I would say that an enormous part of my identity has been adopted from advertising. I very much live in this culture; how could I possibly ignore such powerful forces? Is it ideal? Probably not. Would I like not to be so swayed by the forces of advertising and consumerism? Of course, but I would be kidding myself if I didn't admit that this was a huge part of who I am as a member of this culture.

As a previous commenter mentioned, transgendered persons are deeply committed to not being what they were born into. So many people who are not thrilled with the way they were born courageously labor their whole lives to adopt new and fluid identities. Others, such as transsexual persons are in a constant state of remaking themselves. I feel inspired by such fluid and changeable notions of identity.

On the internet, these tendencies move in different directions. With much less commitment than it takes in meatspace, we can project various personas with mere stokes of a keyboard. In this chatroom, I'm a woman; on this blog, I'm a political conservative; in this forum, I'm a middle-aged golfer. And I never get called out for not being authentic or real. On the contrary, I am addressed as "madam," or "you right-wing asshole." In fact, Mr. Khan, I wouldn't be surprised if you were writing under a pseudonym right now. Not only would I forgive you, I've come to expect that the person I think I'm addressing on the internet isn't really "that person." Fascinating, no?

If my identity is really up for grabs and changeable by the minute -- as I believe it is -- it's important that my writing reflect this state of ever-shifting identity and subjectivity. That can mean adopting voices that aren't "mine," subjectivities that aren't "mine," political positions that aren't "mine," opinions that aren't "mine," words that aren't "mine," because in the end, I don't think that I can possibly define what's "mine" and what isn't.

BUT -- and here's where subjectivity enters -- it's my choices that make the work "mine." I have chosen -- for some specific reason -- a certain text to appropriate or to reframe. For example, in a recent piece of mine, I have appropriated the entire interrogation session between Senator Larry Craig and the policeman who arrested him. I haven't done a thing to the text, I've just reprinted the whole thing. Why? I thought it was such a revealing text, full of prejudice and hypocrisy from both sides. It was something much more profound -- even surreal -- than anything I could ever have invented. In the end, it's a beautiful piece of writing.

Sometimes, by reproducing texts in a non-interventionist way, we can shed light on political issues in a more profound and illuminating way than we can by conventional critique. If we wished to critique globalism, for example, I can imagine that reproducing / framing the transcript as from yesterday's G8 summit meeting where they refused to ratify climate control threats would reveal much more about the truth of the situation than I could possibly say. Often, I feel it's better to let the text be what it is -- generally, as in the case of the G8, they'll incriminate and hang themselves with their own stupidity. I call this poetry.

I feel as writers we try too hard. No matter what we do with language, it will be expressive. How could it be otherwise? In fact, I feel it is impossible working with language not to express oneself. If we back off and let the material do it's work, we might even in the end be able to surprise and delight ourselves with the results.

Kenneth Goldsmith

On July 9, 2009 at 2:11pm GregScott Houghton wrote:
After reading conceptual and flarf I felt somewhat ill from the effort followed by a harsh realization of facts. I have suspected (known) for some time that western society (probably World society) is rapidly running out of new things to say, new things to do, indeed anything truly-new. And, I am sad for it to be true. I also see the people/poets feeling the need to try to 'come-up-with and then introduce the next big (New) thing.
The problem with much of today's poetry is loss of poetic story-line, nil 'mind's-eye' image-transference ( where is it goin' an' why?) and trendy favoritism.
Now F & C is trying to prove a worth poetically and to gain acceptance of wordage bearing less actual value than the streaming of the alphabet. A mud-in-the-cup tea party can just go so far when the party-goer's get thirsty.
Obviously we live in a tense and needy World (as portrayed in one form upon this comment page) and we are all looking for something to make us feel good. I say don't give up your search or believe you've found anything more than perhaps a link into a real and better future for poetry tomorrow. This whole F and C thing reminds me of...

I've seen they like crap, they even print crap and shit and gibberish
the same kinda shit that I writ a couple decades an' a lustrum ago
crap is what it was, back then I thought it was good...but it was
crap and shit and gibberish.
I'am still capable of writing crap.
Maybe I'll send some to them and see if they like any of my crap...
er...Crap and Shit and Gibberish that is.

take care-good luck- rave on

On July 9, 2009 at 2:52pm John Oliver Simon wrote:
Those who reject the concept of identity are still bucking for fame, fortune, tenure, grants, publications, awards, name on the masthead, and one's own furry face smiling bemused out of the website.

On July 9, 2009 at 8:33pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
Ivan Zimmer said:

“Just teasing back! Don't get upset.”

Taoists don’t get upset, Ivan. That’s why we’re Taoists.

Ivan Zimmer said:

“After all, didn't Lao-Tzu say: "The ruler regards the people as straw dogs"?”

Insofar as you are a scholar, I’m sure you know that the writings of Confucius, Mo Ti and Lao tzu were basically intended as advice to the emperor. Confucius championed order, organization and tradition. Good advice, maybe. But what Lao tzu means by “…treating the people as straw dogs.” is basically a recommendation for benevolent neglect. What we would now call Laissez-faire. He said only that a ruler of men should follow the rules of Nature, for nature has been truly kind to its subjects. They grow and prosper simply by being left alone. Nature favors those that succeed of their own volition. Today we call this the free market.

The way to accomplish this is to let the people find their own way rather than force them to follow the emperor’s way. This is now known as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion and the freedom to vote.

My, old ‘Long Ears’ was quite prescient, wasn’t he? As a scholar, you will also note that Confucius, after meeting with Lao tzu, compared him to a Dragon. A significant distinction in Bronze Age Chinese culture, don’t you think?

And finally, Mr. Zimmer, I believe that you, like a true Confucian, take things way too seriously.

Your friend,


On July 9, 2009 at 11:09pm Jamey Hecht wrote:

On July 10, 2009 at 2:06pm Ivan Zimmer wrote:
Dear Gary:
Yep! I'm a tightwad! I was just teasing you, don't get so uptight. Confucius, Taoism, leagalism...ism...ism, they all need to be taken in their historical/political/cultural context. In modern times if one says they're Confucian, they are Taoist as well becuase concepts and paradigns over the centuries have blended. In fact, that blending actually occued in the Western Han and matured in the Ming and Qing eras. The moden Taoist denotes a religion more than a philosophy. Chinese folk religion to be precise, which is a blending of everything that touches it. It is Vodou, Santaria, ancestor worship (advocated by Confucian and Taoist alike).It is a part of my daily life...gee, maybe I'm a Taoist too, lol!
A modern 儒家concerns himself with learning, education, the betterment of society as a whole. In its day, Confucian thought was considered "revolutionary", today it is considered by some (who can't take it context) as reactionary. "East Mystiquers" feel the same way. Chinese society to this day is essentialy Confucian in its "moral nature"---it's Vodou, baby!

Anyway, don't blame me fo taking things so seriously! I'm an English language and grammar teacher who can't type presentable English!
You know many grammar teachers who aren't total neurotics? Come on, give me a break man. Show me some pity!lol
Have a good one!

On July 10, 2009 at 3:15pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:
LOL. You're okay, Ivan.

On July 11, 2009 at 6:23pm Elizabeth Stein wrote:
I have to complain not about the poem but about flarf and conceptualist writings in general. This is the worst the to happen in the history of poetry. Poetry has become a random mess, without content, there's no meaning to it anymore. It isn't original and doesn't even say ANYTHING. Who honestly wants to waste their time reading something about nothing that has no point and is certainly not beautiful, it is only random and frankly the death of poetry!

On July 12, 2009 at 7:37pm the archaic avatar wrote:
I'm always looking.

I'm always looking for ways to make my words become words.

I'm always looking for an excuse to read the fine print.

I'm always looking for my glasses.

I'm always looking to make sure there's honesty, spontaneity, & most importantly, friendship.

I'm always looking at my hairline to see if it's receding or not.

I'm always looking for new work.

I'm always looking for the random mess of poetry, without content.

I'm always looking for something new on the treadmill.

I'm always looking to buy old vintage jigsaw puzzles.

I'm always looking at womens cleavage when they are wearing low cut tops, or blouses, even if I don't find them attractive.

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I'm always looking for meaningful one-night stands.

I'm always looking for instrumentals to rip.

I'm always looking to explode more violently.

I'm always looking to waste my time reading something about nothing that has no point which certainly cannot be beautiful, it is only random and frankly the death of poetry.

I’m always looking for ways to find prospects in unorthodox ways.

I'm always looking to improve and get better.

I'm always looking for some obscure grammar structure.

I'm always looking for something not written by myself, so I can just be myself.

I'm always looking for different career options in multimedia.

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I'm always looking up, if you're still looking down.

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I’m always looking for ways to hack my system the way I want.

I'm always looking for the LOL.

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I’m always looking for the better side in a person.

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I'm always looking for your face.

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I'm always looking for as well as a couple major epiphanies.

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I'm always looking for Flarf, but in all the wrong places.

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I'm always looking at typefaces too.

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I'm always looking for dissenting opinions.

I'm always looking at strange shaped trees.

I'm always looking for like-minded people with a shared dream.

I'm always looking for the ulterior motive.

I'm always looking for new sources.

I'm always looking for more goths to hang with and talk to.

I'm always looking, looking, looking, for that perfect speed.

I'm always looking at the sky above me.

I'm always looking.

On July 13, 2009 at 6:11am Andrei wrote:
As "the archaic avatar" so brilliantly (though perhaps inadvertently?) demonstrates, the list is by now really tired as a Flarf form. It's, I don't know, like a graphic designer using a cheesy glow effect in Photoshop, kind of obvious and bespeaking very little creative effort besides pushing a couple of buttons. So, flarfistas please keep flarfing, but move away from the list...

On July 15, 2009 at 11:32pm David Schneider wrote:
I am disappointed that the editor of POETRY MAGAZINE would set up a dichotomy of poetic form by creating a neologism ("flarf") that's ugly, useless, and seemingly derogatory as the word "blog." It will probably achieve the status of common currency, as it's been introduced in a forum large enough to disseminate itself widely; but for the world's most important poetry magazine to stoop to this level is embarrassing.

What you call "flarf" is really: the resurgence of the '20s: Modernism, dada, surrealism, and collage collage collage, updated to hyperlinked and polyvalent multimedia intertextuality. And we who work in this form think your term is very silly.

On July 18, 2009 at 2:50pm the archaic avatar wrote:
The list poem is another form of poetry.

The list poem is simple and doesn't require rhyme or rhythm, so encourage your poet to change words and experiment with phrasing to the heart's content.

The list poem is one of the simplest ways for beginners to approach the writing of free-verse poetry.

The list poem is usually not a random list.

The list poem is just that: a list.

The list poem is a very old form of poetry.

The list poem is the easiest structure of all.

The list poem is therefore one of the oldest and most organic forms of poetry.

The list poem is still a popular form in contemporary poetics.

The list poem is particularly useful for students just beginning to write poetry, because its form is flexible and its content has authenticity.

The list poem is descriptive.

The list poem is comprehensive and well-organized, clear, and uncluttered.

The list poem is a poetic form used by Mark Strand in his "Giving Myself Up" (1970) on his body parts.

The list poem is easy to write and great for these everyday, not-very-poetic issues that can hold us back.

The list poem is one of the most popular and enduring forms.

The list poem is a genre in itself, yet often poems outside that category are list poems by any other name.

The list poem is a brilliant way to go about this assignment because once you are freed up from narrative, it's much easier to work the assigned words.

The list poem is a poem, which is evident to me in it's subject matter and flow.

The list poem is a favourite style, but she also writes with a Pacific lyricism entirely her own.

The list-poem is only one of several examples of contextual reinterpretation given by Fish, so in this section I shall briefly review the others.

The list poem is an excellent device to get them started on writing with a favorite subject in hand.

The list poem is often considered one of the most basic literary forms.

The list poem is more like the poetry of contemporary lyric poet David Trinidad, or the Language poetry of Bruce Andrews, or a Burroughs/Gysin cut-up.

The list poem is actually very popular with elementary school teachers - so is haiku - and so the forms often get dismissed as "not serious."

On July 19, 2009 at 6:54pm AMJC wrote:
MORPHEU = lovechild of dionysous &
Apollo --- but dont take my word 4 it:

From political change to pocket change,
shipments to shipwrecks, quotations to
digital code, Alejandro Crawford never
met a morphosis he didn't like, and
here in these pages neither will you.
Skipping from "omicron" to "omg" to
"ominous gold," Morpheu cuts across
registers from syllable to syllable,
breaking the surface of language to
reveal the golden (and sometime
ominous) connections between
postmodern assemblage and modernist
source text (the work is based in part
on the Brazilian/Portuguese journal
Orpheu , which notably published the
work of Fernando Pessoa). The text
moves between English and
Portuguese, and between the ecstatic
linguistic play of Dionysian disruptions
and the classical Apollonian concern
with measure and a masterfully careful
calibration of sound. Here, the two gods
of Orpheus vie, and Crawford reveals
that in the end, once the dust and tears
have settled, they may merely be
heteronyms of the same muse.
Fragments and pathos: the stones are
crying, the limbs tearing — remember
the lesson of Orpheus and keep
reading: don't, whatever you do, dare
to look back.

—Craig Dworkin

buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy buy

On July 20, 2009 at 9:54pm Arif Khan (II) wrote:
Dear Sir,

I'm in the midst of researching the
nocturnal patterns of aardvarks, and so
I don't have time to write an extensive
response to your essay. I wish you and
your friends the best of luck in your
language plundering.

In Huuu,

Arif Khan (II)

For Kenneth Goldsmith

As I walked westward to the bank:
Queen Street
a giant, gangrened mouth devouring
history. While
walking on a road, I think why not “The
Fundamentalist.” I shuffled past
Parkdale Library
where I became emaciated. If a limit
expands west
or east, one imagines it is infinite.
There is a non-
conceptual threshold between east and
west that
is infinite. Hitting this point, I was
nobody. History
clawed away, hacked. I thought I’d
leave my luggage
at the sewer without a trace. Just
vanish, walk out
of the book like a disaster that hasn’t
hit yet. Walk
out of a house, shut the fucking door. I
lay on the bed
the spine convulsed. The tiger fled back
into the sewer. The gods reappeared on
the lawns.
The neighbor watered the schoolyard.
It was another
night on Queen West. I was searching
for you
in a gallery of knives, podiums and
prizes weaving
seamless desires into the heart of
Can a man be raped of desire,
Speech blasted out of absence. Body
of semblance. Time expanding
into a Harlequin Romance. There’s an
art to killing
yourself, you said, just as there is an
to arranging mock Pollock paintings on
walls. The book now behind you, you
go to work
and take Saturdays off. There are two
of you now.
You pretend you are writing a third, the
First: a tiger in a pit covered over with
plastic ferns.
Did “The Jungle Book” create the tiger
in the first place,
even if it wasn’t the tiger? It was like a
tiger trapped in a pit,
the abscess. And if it followed you
everywhere you wept.
Every book seems a railway track to
being, what of the cargo
moving eastward. The men in the
reeling close to the tracks. Close the
train curtain.
It’s okay your landlord strangled you
for rent. It was only
a dream. In short, he brought you up
pound cake. This body,
tear it apart. He fed you with his own
bones. Son of a cop. They’ll never hire
you, paki.
And I began a story many years ago
with the words: “The tiger
will devour you.” There might be a map
of perception that doesn’t lie.
You don’t want the names, only the
words in their ghostly presences,
reduced to their last. The self reduced
to its brackets, persists.
The “I” that has become the dear page
it haunts. The one you’ve been looking
to kill with the weight of a margin. The
tiger trapped in a margin. Words
snapped down like a button down shirt.
Go to work. The spiraling abyss.
Heaven or hell both coalescing. There is
a magnetism to granite.
We’re talking like fluid brothers,
walking toward the bank machine, past
a chalice of hoarse whispers in a room
stripped of dust. History wends its way
towards me. What if you wore a bomb
suit as you left the book burning down
Tavistock Square?
Yesterday, I dreamt of a tiger again.
Trapped in a pit, our body constituting
this border that we cannot cross. This is
where I left off. Homegrown bodies.
The return of the barbarians. This is not
language effect.
How to kindle paralysis. I lay on the
bed of the sufi. She ripped
at all the distinct lines. Some theorist
was proud that there was not
a line left, but he wouldn’t zig zag
through space. Haunting even
myself. I was saying ‘invent yourself
out of a knowledge flux
before it has made an incision in flesh,
before it has reached
the point of forward.’ There is a
metaphysical truth
to this statement that is evasive. There
is a point that blasts
the time of history. When Red becomes
brown the lines of the body
were pulled away, the body started to
move in many directions at once.
It was 1989, the end of the Cold War. It
was starting to warm up.
Fanon once said: a race of angels. This
is the spell the gods are under. The
sigh of the oppressed. I wanted to meet
you, dine with you: Let’s get together
with your wife and son. Formlessness
is out of style, the avant-gardists say.
Did you have a form, Sid? We passed
by the gallery
stripped down to bare walls. We passed
the boutiques.
We passed the tool shed with its poetry
tools to fashion award-
winning poetry. We frolicked in the
sandbox with the avant-gardists.
We pretended that technology eclipsed
an ever expanding self.
Where is the evidence that you are
speaking in the video they left.
Googling your horoscope, it said. St.
Augustine might have been
right about one thing. There is no
evidence that the stars
blew out of their sockets. Are the stars
in the sky. Why this cold blast from
nowhere. There is no
evidence that there was a word you
said before. An excess.
They wanted to know you, “a mystery,”
leave me the fuck out of it. I want to be
alone, now.
You clamor around me with their dread.
They have dressed you up in gray
music. After Parkdale
library, stories staggered and
After I became the mouth devouring
myself. I walked
home disgusted with myself. I burned
my avant garde
poetry books on the side of the road.
K.Silem Mohammad
and all the other hypocrites went up
into flame. D
was hanging onto the door handle. You
know when a house
becomes a tornado. A homeless Polish
security guard spraying my cologne in
his arm pits. Some voodoo
spell, some sun god in the sky,
remembering the days
before the Gardner strangled the
lakefront and the parasols
fled, the poor by the Gardner, and then
the north frontier
erected in Victorian houses: language
edge, they said.
The landlord kicked him out. And I went
to lake searching
for this place. Ran over the bridge
around Jameson
through the webs. Found those corpses
baking in the sun,
the fish. Sid, there’s no place where
we can meet, in the video
you said. I’m writing you this love letter
As you rise from the primal violence.
Have you become
the quake ripping through the spine,
tearing through sinews of flesh?

On July 21, 2009 at 1:55am rainshine wrote:
Flarf is just fluff--updated Surrealist collage poems. But these modern internet exquisite corpses do not necessarily produce good poetry just because they use the Net. I would say the ones here, as in most of those from the past, are derivative, uninspired and instantly forgettable.

On July 24, 2009 at 1:50am the archaic avatar wrote:
in the past, it was the past.

pens & papers & pens & papers.

the past shall remain the past unless the past catches up, which is unlikely.

in a galaxy far far awry, there once was a past of passing, stormtrooper bump the heads, vader space always on go, monopoly monies buy nothin' but boardgames.

the game, so to speak, is never in the past; the pawns & playpieces are passed on.

there's no future like the past.

it was only yesterday.

to-morrow ain't nothin' todays yesterday.

stop the clocks, this hammers got cuckoo like swissmiss 'n marshmallows.

if the poetry of the past stands up for us today in the present, then fuck yrself 'cause ain't nothin' not no now 'cept neoneo & that shit done broke boxoffice.

one ticket.

i suffer from Schwitters' Syndrome; bend down to grab the rubbish, a residual energy, the archeology of sociology : th same is true for th internetz.

if i concieve, am i conceptual?

the past is my past & the past is your past, all our passings shall be a beautiful death in the noiseless vacuum of robots living forever.

the next avant wave will be post-robotic.

we are already there,
or haven't y'all noticed
the past,
always passing,
an endless gutterball
comin' up strikes for
lucky 'cause LS/MFT
or L.F.D.Y as always,
James Dean
550 Spyder,
we all hate
our maker,

unmake it.

On August 1, 2009 at 3:54am Andy Mellon wrote:
The First Hundred

The of and a to in is you,
that it he was, for on are as.
With his, they, I at be this have,
from or one had, by word, but not....
What all were we, when your can said?
There, use an each, which she do how.
Their if will up, other about
out many, then them these, so some.
Her would make like him into time;
Has look, two more! Write. Go see.
Number? No way! Could people?
My than first water been call,
who oil its now find long down day,
did get, come made, may part.

On August 14, 2009 at 4:40am zero wrote:
taking text from the internet to create
text to post on the internet... isn't that
like feeding beef to cows? can't wait to
see what happens...
I am
and now can write freely
no original thought
no language
no meaning
no soul
no future as long as can be
nothing more than a concept
trawling for words to put together in
order to find
original thought
new language
new meaning
new soul
new futures so the past can be
now that’s a concept

On August 23, 2009 at 11:04pm Marlin wrote:
Did this feature article receive more responses than any other? Seriously, thats a lot comment. Provocative.

On September 5, 2009 at 7:28pm aliengape wrote:
nice hat, goldsmith.

On September 16, 2009 at 1:17am Shallow Eyes wrote:
I've looked at all of the text before me.

On September 24, 2009 at 12:25pm Jeffrey Side wrote:

Kenny, you still haven't responded to my comment on a previous post elsewhere on this blog, regarding statements in your interview with Dale Smith. In that comment I said: 'I was rather perplexed to see Kenny so supportive of the idea that anything should go in poetry, yet admit that UbuWeb is not a democracy and that he decides “what goes there”, and that: “99% of what is submitted is not accepted. But that’s why it’s so good. The bar is set very high according to Ubu’s standards, which are quite rigorous.” Yet, I wonder what criteria are brought into play when deciding what is the best of “anything should go”, or arbitrarily collaged texts etc. I suppose, there isn’t one, and that it is all personal taste.' Until you address this, I can't take you seriously.

On October 13, 2009 at 12:23am James Westwood wrote:
Everyones a poet.

On October 15, 2009 at 4:12pm Mr Donutsu wrote:

Well I don't need to remind such a big fan of "anything should go" about Pierre Menard, Author of the "Quixote", then do I? In a pattern analogous to the infinite monkey theorem, Menard begs the question that any of us can do the same - as can printing presses and photocopiers. Indeed, we are told, if infinitely many angels of rigorous standards hit keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time one would eventually produce a replica of Quixote's giant windmill itself. That replica, Menard maintains, would be as much an instance of the work, Don Quixote, as are any other arbitrary collaged texts themselves.

On February 23, 2011 at 8:08am Shaftflex wrote:
Hey, I'm writing my MA on Flarf and I still
have some doubts whethet we can call
Kenneth a Flarfist? He edited some of their
works but has he really made some flarfy
works? Thanks in advance for help!

On March 2, 2011 at 6:13pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:
Sorry - Kenneth doesn't really exist. So, I
guess that means that no, he wasn't a
Flarfist. Thanks for asking!

On March 3, 2011 at 5:55pm Kenneth Goldsmith wrote:
Wait a minute. If Kenneth Goldsmith is
writing this, doesn't that mean he - I mean
I - wait, wait. It's all so confusing!

On August 2, 2013 at 1:07pm The former president wrote:
Okay, but how does this make life more livable?

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This prose originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2009


 Kenneth  Goldsmith


Kenneth Goldsmith's writing has been called some of the most "exhaustive and beautiful collage work yet produced in poetry" by Publishers Weekly. Goldsmith is the author of eight books of poetry, founding editor of the online archive UbuWeb (, and the editor I'll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, which is the basis for an opera, Trans-Warhol, premiering in Geneva in March of 2007. Goldsmith is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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