Freedom in Flarf

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“The Flag of Flarf,”
in all its clashing-color glory
(cyan, hot pink, and caca d’oie)

I never quite understood flarf. For awhile, I thought people were writing it to send in to vanity contests to prove the contest standards were laughably low (a kind of analogue to 419-baiting). I thought it was purely a ruse. Having a go amidst some lively banter over on Amy King’s blog has convinced me otherwise. I think flarf can be good for so-called serious poets who are dedicated to other modes — and even liberating.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal (scroll down), that Abraham Lincoln encouraged at least one member of his staff on one occasion to write an angry letter and burn it, and that he did so himself as a therapeutic exercise. I have certainly done something similar (akin to Cameron’s “morning pages”) and found great benefit. It occurs to me that if being free to write a diatribe full of unsavory and inappropriate comments can actually make you a better diplomat, perhaps being free to write really bad poetry complete with similar trappings can actually make you a better poet.

Poetry can become so serious.
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