I’m not sure there is a distinction between what little flarf I write and my poetry-poetry. Maybe in the method. Most of my flarf is entirely google-generated. My poetry-poetry comes from all kinds of sources as well as whatever can be said to be “my” voice(s). The final effect, however, is not all that different.

I don’t write much Flarf these days. No time. Kasey and Michael and Rodney and Drew turn out such amazing stuff that I don’t need to. IMHO, it’s good poetry. I mean actually good poetry.

Bad flarf is stilted or tries too hard or just isn’t funny. It’s also bad when it oversteps the invisible boundary that is outside of the visible boundary that one must overstep in order to write flarf in the first place. What I mean is, for example, the injunction against the n-word still holds. For me anyway.

Wow, did I love Stephanie’s dream that had me and David Hess in it…

Other blog reactions — made my way over to Corina Copp’s blog – v. interesting! When I have time I’ll update my lynxlist. I am planning to have time in about six weeks…

David Hess writes, in his blog:

My ambivalence over some of the pieces in Gary Sullivan’s How to Proceed in the Arts remain difficult to articulate or formulate. In attempting to satirize pretension and self-seriousness in the art world he runs into the danger of falling into the same poses (hence, flarf makes all poses legitimate as poses). Some of the satires seemed to try to work as faulty satires — to make fun of themselves in the process of parodying the styles and habits of others.

The same danger I see in Nada Gordon’s work. By titling her book V. Imp, in which she begins a poem with the self-quoting epitaph “I have an exaggerated sense of my own unimportance,” she risks doing just that, which is to say the opposite — not mocking her own self-importance but bolstering it. The feeling I get is of trying to prove one’s own lack of pretentiousness and sincerity (as if the two were the same). Not a surprising tendency given her admiration for Bernstein, who achieves a new level of pretension by trying undermine the unitary lyric voice, normative syntax — those things that supposedly contribute to the reification of subjectivity and self.

The epigraph, as well as the title, for me operates at several simultaneous levels of meaning, some sincere, some “sincere”, some ironic, some psychological, and some social. What David seems to be unwilling to see in my work is my embrace of my own buffoonery and my acceptance of myself as a singular (i.e. lyric) being in this world as absurdly trivial. This personal triviality mirrors the social triviality of the poet in contemporary America (as well as the triviality of being female – sure, quote me on that), and as a sentiment actually goes against my teachers, who fought tirelessly, if not always convincingly, to prove the social relevance of their work. Poetry itself is an elevation and glorification of the trivial– at least in my books — and that’s quite all right with me. I was also satirizing my own genuine feeling that poetic activity, for me, is “very important.” Important? “Stay tuned for an important message from our sponsors.” What is important? Nothing, really – we all die (and while we are alive our ‘civilization’ is mostly just a cruel joke we play on ourselves) and it’s all Maya when we’re alive, anyway. It’s even more Maya now than it usually is. The poetry seizes the (trivial) day anyway, quite irrationally, and that is why I need it and why, I guess, David needs it. Therefore, it is “very important” if only in a futile and laughable way.

I don’t know how David can talk about Bakhtin (who is certainly one of the most useful critics, along with Jerome McGann, for approaching my work) in one breath and (derisively) call me pretentious in another. By the way I don’t have a problem with pretension, as long as it’s overt and OVER THE TOP. That is the sort of pretension I relish, actually. I do have a philosophical and psychological problem with self-seriousness. That may well be my downfall, that inability to realize that I am really HERE on the planet and not just watching it, that I have some kind of responsibility for the course of events here, too, but there you have it. There’s anxiety in that distance from any certainty or seriousness, and that is partly what my work is about. It’s not, admittedly, “mature” work, although you would think that at 39 years old I would have become more mature rather than less so. But again, I bow my head and accept my own ridiculousness. It is what has been given me.

Not sure also why he brings Bernstein in here. He and I have corresponded about Bernstein in the past, with me defending B. to some extent, but I am certainly no devotee, as I am no devotee of anyone with the possible exceptions of Gary and the kitties (“Yoko & me…”). I suppose there is more of Bernstein’s influence in my work than, say, Robert Frost’s, but it’s partly a socio-ethnic thing. I do totally relate to Bernstein’s neo-vaudevillian borscht-belt approach. But I don’t think that I attack lyricism as it is said (and I would debate this) he does. Rather, as do so many others of my g-g-g-… I resuscitate it, although because it’s brought back from the dead it’s a bit damaged and monstrous. I think that for David to mention Bernstein in the para quoted above is rhetorically misleading, attempting to force a set of preconceived literary notions onto my work.

OK, I write nonsense and so does Bernstein. Do we write nonsense for the same reasons? Maybe and maybe not, but I think the question deserves more careful attention and more reference to actual texts instead of generalization. I think David is capable of this – sometimes his astuteness astounds me. Other times I feel like he has a certain set of prejudices that he doesn’t want to overcome in order to look at a text with fresh eyes (OK he’s plenty fresh but you know what I mean). He published the following review of my book in his blog, and for that I am genuinely grateful. I have been meaning to respond to him, but I’ve hardly had a minute – as it is I’m stealing time at work for this. Anyway, I self-indulgently reprint it here, so that I can respond in public:

Nada at Ululations complains of not having her recent books reviewed (she’s published four or five in the past two to three years I think). I have her latest V. IMP. published by Jack Kimball’s Fauxpress. If poetry had a splatter flick genre I think Nada’s might be the most notable example. She herself has hinted it to be paratactical/postlanguage plus a McClurean yelp or mantra-making (I’d really want to hear the poems before I attempt another interpretation). Jack Kimball has used the term “New Beat” to describe the work of some younger poets and I imagine he has Nada’s in mind, among others’. It’s difficult for me to review a book like this because of 1) my antipathy to most postlanguage work; 2) I know the poet on a somewhat personal level; 3) because I have a growing tendency to judge books based on what I want them to do and not on what they are trying to do, to put it ineloquently.

I’m as torn and confused by Nada’s poetry as I am by that of Chris Stroffolino, who I think is a very good poet despite my personal opinions, tastes, etc. To put it lightly, Nada’s is not reader-friendly, which does not necessarily make it unenjoyable. With Chris she tends to share a messier-than-thou approach to formal concerns. The subject (the poet) is simultaneously energized and exhausted, excited and demoralized. Formally the book varies widely: The “Foreword” presents a dialogue between a mule and an ostrich. There are three collaborations with Gary Sullivan (whose drawings or illustrations of Lollywood movie billboards can be found on several pages). There’s a serial poem called “(A Pastoral Recess),” 12 “Very Important Sonnets” whose titles consist of two words, the first of which begins with a “V” and the second an “I”, a strange intermission, perhaps, called “Maw” that’s almost a prose poem, then “PtArmIgaN (A Threnody)”, a play that extends from pps. 91 to 104. The cast is composed of a ptarmigan, Ludwig Wittgenstein, a chorus, and then male and female choruses. To finish up, one poem “Placilily,” which speaks of the desire “to shoot the pain [worked on in the previous play] / through to the tragedy.” “Post-Script: ‘To Bray Is Great’” reads as a kind of summary of poetic history or habitus (“the poly-lipid whorish yearning scrapes the inner ribs / of Elizabeth Barrett Browning [sic! This last word should be ‘Watten’] , as if i were an agent of extended / John Keats bolt the writing confers its untinted blessing on / as if ‘blessing’ were not more savage than its cotton filings.”) and ends by spreading good wishes: “Go, dear heat, and embrace your liberty… / and see what wonderful things / come of it.”

In Nada’s poetry I can see innovative, formal techniques being returned to self-expression. As the one word blurb by Alan Davies announces: “Nadalisque!” It’s a kind of hyperexpressionism that constantly questions its own validity and stance – what it wants, what it believes – a habit that can be rather annoying as being engaged with poetics as with the self are just a few of the things we might want a poetry of this energy and inclusivity to embrace and explore.

Many of his insights here, as well as his criticisms, are accurate, even startlingly so. And for someone who seems not to like “my kind of poetry” (postlanguage? postpunk? postcivilization?) he is awfully attentive to it. And in a way he’s just the kind of reader I want, who is working through, I think, a lot of the same intellectual and psychological struggles that I am. He’s “torn and confused” by my poetry? That makes two of us! It’s good to know that someone is paying attention, even if he doesn’t point out other facets of the work I would think he’d like, such as its questioning of authority, its manifest duende, its brazen physicality, its crazy musics, its formal variations (not just, I think, “messiness”). But that’s OK.

OK, sorry everyone, to go on at length about myself. But as you all know, decorum isn’t totally my thing.



Slight emendation: the cradle of civilization IS the grave of civilization.

Bye bye artifacts.

Bye bye earliest known piece of writing ever.

Bye bye historic correspondence, prehistoric objects, papers flying in the wind

— the library and archives burnt to the ground.

How did we let this happen?

Carla says in her piece on circulars that we should keep on struggling until we drop.

Yes. But in a way we have already dropped.

The desecrating marauders and their toxic trail of chaos are holding sway.

Meanwhile, we fill out our 1040s.

A couple of my students have recently written very empassioned anti-war (and by extension, anti-America) essays. I’ve already returned them, though, so I can’t quote them here. I enjoyed this part of Hidetoshi’s paper, however:

Why it is Better to be a Man

Do you want to take a longer time to pee? “Of course not,” you may say. Usually it doesn’t take a long time for men to pee than for women. For example, when you are in a hurry for a meeting, a man has only to pull the zipper down. But a woman has to take her skirt off and also lingerie. She might be late for a meeting. Undoubtedly men can pee in a shorter time than women. That is why it is better to be a man.

He may be a little confused about the mechanics of female micturation [SIC — micturition — thanks JK] (I mean, I never actually take my skirt off), but this is nonetheless highly amusing.

I think Oppen’s poetry is awful.

Of course I think he was a noble person, in his way.

But he could also be an aesthetic tyrant.

I am very close with his niece, who lived with him for a while in her childhood.She started writing under his tutelage and “encouragement”. But is it encouraging to tell an eleven-year-old girl, “You must stand by every word”? NO.

His avuncular injunctions still echo repressively in her adult head. It makes me very angry to think about this. Why couldn’t he have told her she could use writing to explore and to make stuff up?

Anyway, I think his poetry is really boring.