I got into poetry not so much because I loved poetry, but more because I loved a woman who loved poets. I found, and still find, I don’t get it. I try and sometimes I am right, but usually I “miss the point” and just enjoy the sounds of it whether it is established poets like Langston Hughes to up and coming multimedia poet (and a fellow Celtics fan) Tameka Mullins.
So I started listening to podcasts about poetry and it helped a little. One day a glorious occurance happened. I was on the bus going to Seattle and I turned on my ipod to listen to hear what I could learn on the poetry podcast I still subscribe to despite the fact the woman I was trying to impress had moved on to more intellectual pastures. I pressed play and discovered flarf. My life was about to be transformed. Flarfiness was about to enter my life and forever change how I understood poetry.
Flarf, in a ironic turn that only poets are capable of, gained its legitimacy because of the reaction of the very people it was satirizing. Had they ignored it chances are it would have gone away. However, purists being purists could not avoid talking about flarf. Flarf is designed to be crude and takes satirical shots at everything it can. The very construct of flarf, an amalgamation of searches on Google or other search engines makes it conducive to making fun of American society.
Poets, I suppose would not mind if flarf called itself something other than poetry. They claim that flarf is not poetry and give a list of sacrosanct reasons from the “Great Book of Proper Poetry” on why flarf is not poetry. As with all forms of satire, thi s very challenge seems to encourage flarfists to legitimize their art form even more.
Why it is good as a form of satire lays both in its origins and the knee jerk reaction anti-flarfists give to it. Satire, we should remember, is not always parody, parody is a form of satire. Satire can range from the seemingly serious A Modest Proposal to the poke society in the eye parody found in the faux newspaper The Onion, satire criticize s ideas by embracing them and then taking them to the very logical extreme. The trouble is most people do not understand satire. They do not understand the very feeling of revulsion that is knotting up their gut is the author begging them to look at why such a situation exists in the first place. Instead they get misdirect their anger at the author and the whole point of the call to arms against injusticeis lost in a tirade of flaming letters ,boycotts, angry condemnations from the press, and occasionally violence.
Flarf is no different than any other form satire in that way. The fact that flarf exists and thrives is a great inside joke . It is crude and at times misogynistic ,racist, and downright foul because it is trying to sound the alarm against racism, misogyny, and foulness that is spreading like a untreatable sickness in our lives at the very time we have an opportunity to finally banish these horrible concepts to the cesspool of human hatred from which they came. Ignoring problems is not the same as solving them and Flarf brings much needed attention as well as a few very uncomfortable laughs.