Skip to content

New in Conceptual Poetry & Flarf : Kenny Goldsmith Strikes Again!

July 5, 2009

Last June, I attended a Conceptual Poetry Conference at the University of Arizona Tucson. Now, a year later, Kenneth Goldsmith has edited the current issue of Poetry, Flarf and Conceptual Writing in Poetry Magazine : Harriet the Blog published by the Poetry Foundation, much of which is also available on-line at Harriet the Blog (Flarf and Conceptual Writing in Poetry Magazine : Harriet the Blog ) and written the following essay,

Flarf is Dionysus. Conceptual Writing is Apollo.

An introduction to the 21st Century’s most controversial poetry movements. In this essay, Goldsmith asks,

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?

His answer includes:

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.

What is conceptual poetry? Goldsmith offers up a primer in this extensive pdf here. In his Poetry essay, he compares and contrasts Flarf with Conceptual Writing:

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.

During my stay in Tucson and after, I wrote a series of posts about my experiences there and my attempts to understand this kind of poetry better which you can find at the end of this post.

In Tucson, I met many of the poets Goldsmith mentions in his essay and pdf or features in this issue, including LA poet, Vanessa Place who wrote the poem below. (Please note: I am struggling to get the stanza breaks to “stick;” you may choose to read and view the poem Miss Scarlett here.)

Miss Scarlett

by Vanessa Place

Miss Scarlett, effen we kain git de doctah
w’en Miss Melly’s time come, doan you bodder
Ah kin manage. Ah knows all ’bout birthin.
Ain’ mah ma a midwife? Ain’ she raise me
ter be a midwife, too? Jes’ you leave it
ter me. She warn’t dar. Well’m, Dey Cookie say
Miss Meade done got wud early dis mawnin’
dat young Mist’ Phil done been shot an’ Miss Meade
she tuck de cah’ige an’ Ole Talbot an’
Besty an’ dey done gone ter fotch him home.
Cookie say he bad hurt an’ Miss Meade ain’
gwin ter be studyin’ ’bout comin’ up
hyah. Dey ain’ dar, Miss Scarlett. Ah drapped in
ter pass time of de day wid Mammy on
mah way home.
Dey’s doen gone. House all locked up.
Spec dey’s at de horsepittle.
Miss Elsing ober at de horsepittle.
Dey Cookie ’lows a whole lot of wounded
sojers come in on de early train. Cookie fixin’
soup ter tek over dar. She say—Yas’m
Gawdlmighty, Miss Scarlett! De Yankees
ain’ at Tara, s dey? Gawdlmighty,
Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll dey do ter Maw?
Dey’s fightin’ at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett!
Dey say our gempumus is gittin’ beat.
Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter
Maw an’ Poke? Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen
ter us effen de Yankees gits hyah? Oh,
Gawd—Ah ain’ nebber seed him, Miss Scarlett.
No’m, he ain’ at de horsepittle.
Miss Merriwether
an’ Miss Elsing ain’ dar needer.
A man he tole me de doctah down
by de car shed
wid the wounded
sojers jes’ come in frum Jonesboro, but
Miss Scarlett, Ah wuz sceered ter go down dar ter
de shed—dey’s folkses dyin’ down dar. Ah’s
sceered of daid folkses—Miss Scarlett, fo’ Gawd, Ah
couldn’ sceercely git one of dem ter read
yo’ note. Dey wukin’ in de horsepittle
lak dey all done gone crazy. One doctah
he say ter me, “Damn yo’ hide! Doan you come
roun’ hyah bodderi’ me ’bout babies w’en
we got a mess of men dyin’
hyah. Git some woman ter he’p you.” An’ den
Ah went aroun’ an’ about an’ ask fer news
lak you done tole me an’ dey all say “fightin’
at Jonesboro” an’ Ah—
Is her time nigh, Miss Scarlett?
Is de doctah come?
Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Miss Melly bad off!
Fo’ Gawd, Miss Scarlett—
Fo’ Gawd, Miss Scarlett!
We’s got ter have a doctah.
Ah—Ah—
Miss Scarlett,
Ah doan know nutin’ ‘bout bringin’ babies.

NOTES: Taken from Prissy’s famous scene in the movie version of Gone with the Wind, Place phonetically transcribes the “unreliable” slave’s words, which are then set in Miltonic couplets. Through the simple act of transcription, Place inverts our relationship to Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling and beloved American epic by prioritizing the formal aspects of language over Mitchell’s famous narrative. With this deconstructive move, Place illuminates the many subtexts embedded in the text concerning plays of power, gender, race, and authorship. By ventriloquizing the slave’s voice as well as Mitchell’s, Place also sets into motion a nexus of questions regarding authorship, leading one to wonder: who is pulling whose strings?

Source: Poetry (July/August 2009).

POET

Vanessa Place

Vanessa  PlaceVanessa Place is a writer, lawyer, and co-director of Les Figues Press.

Below are links to posts I wrote about the Conceptual Poetry Symposium in Tucson last June.

Conceptual Poetry Conference: now on-line

Friday, June 13th, 2008

various texts re’d at the conceptual poetry shindig

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Conceptual Poetry Conference: a poem w/constraint pt 2 (Day 3)

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Conceptual Poetry Conference: a poem w/constraint pt 1 (Days 1&2)

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

an invitation

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Advertisements
5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2009 1:10 pm

    Because conceptual poetics is bsaed on the conceptuality of intellect which touch upon the uncreative development of the machinery of materiality-mind frame,these two things”flarf and conceptual” can be the trans-conceptual poetics
    which will enrich the conceptual poetics of 21st century,a diversity from the Avant-garde writings in the 20th century.
    Conceptual poetics is a open secret with an answer.

  2. November 6, 2009 1:44 pm

    Do you think CP is the new lang-po or the new writing for the digit genarations?for me the concept”uncreative” is the thing that commercial world and digit world and the human world needs to reinterpret so as to get the distinction between the concept machine and the concept machinery,leading towards the trans-conceptual world of language,body-action,culture-specific decision-making and intellectuality rooted in change.
    May I hear your thoughts in the crisis of time and space.

  3. November 6, 2009 1:45 pm

    no place for time? or no definitions for time?
    no sspace for time or no time for ssspace?

Trackbacks

  1. Conceptual Poetry & Flarf: Kenneth Goldsmith explains 2 controversial poetry movements « the write alley
  2. Gimmickry « Editions of You

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

foodwineclick

When food and wine click!

The Flavor of Grace

Helene Kremer's The Flavor of Grace

Hot Grieving MILF

I Believe in Magic

The Swirling Dervish

Wine Stories, Food Pairings, and Life Adventures

ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Living La Vida Vino!

Dracaena Wines

Our Wines + Your Moments = Great Memories

L'occasion

a reason for wine

OkieWineGirl

A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Outlaw Soaps: Exciting soaps for adventurous people.

Exciting soaps for adventurous people

Drifting Through

Welcome to the inner workings of my mind

Quartz

Quartz is a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy.

Sonya Huber

books, essays, etc.

THE GRAPE BELT

Drinking, Thinking, Cooking, Eating, Reading, Writing, Traveling, Talking ~ The Essentials of the Wine Life ~

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

poor mexican gone

Yesterday's stories shed light on the way forward

ROCKIN RED BLOG

A Song in Every Glass

cindyrosstraveler

Has a Hard Time Staying Home

trailtraveler

Get your copy of Mile 445 today at Amazon.com!

www.KamalaThompson.com

"Where Business Meets Humanity"

Laura Grace Weldon

Free Range Learning, Creative Living, Gentle Encouragement, Big Questions, Poetry, Occasional Drollery

From Insults To Respect

A Guide To Anger And Conflict Resolution

WES CHYRCHEL

Business Coach · Early Stage Advisor

Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

Where our opinions, Burner culture, and Burning Man come together

Traveling Wine Chick

Purveyor and Curator of Travel and Wine Experiences

L'esprit de Vin

A wine blog with food for thought...

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.

Wine Verbiage

verbiage about wine & life

Small Epiphanies

A BLOG BY G.P. WAYNE

Paul reflects therapeutically

Thoughts about writing about thinking

Myth Girl

"Follow Your Bliss."

the drunken cyclist

I have three passions: wine, cycling, travel, family, and math.

Winehiker Witiculture

Hike. Wine. Repeat! An exploration of life's vinoambulocentricities.

Gabe Feathers McGee

poetry, stories, puffnstuff

New Earth Heartbeat

Breathing with the Heart of the Earth

DEAR HUMAN

These letters are written to remind you just how much you matter, just how important you are, and just how beautiful the gift of life as a human is.

SAHMmelier

Stay at home mom, lover of wine

Talk-A-Vino

Wine, food and life

The Mind's Eye Photo Workshops

Don't just take photos - Make them.

Whole Hog Marvels

Thus, bit by bit, the world is swallow'd

%d bloggers like this: