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Caption: Elisabeth Workman won a McKnight fellowship for her Flarf-inspired poetry., Credit: Diane Richard
Image by: Diane Richard 
Elisabeth Workman won a McKnight fellowship for her Flarf-inspired poetry. 

Flarf in Minnesota (tee hee)

From: KFAI
Series: 10,000 Fresh Voices
Length: 04:59

Flarf is a poetry movement practiced by about 30 poets and academics in the country, two of them in the Twin Cities.

Img_0860_small Since 2001, members of the Flarflist Collective have spread their poetry via the Internet and at readings held at places like the Walker Art Center. Flarf has even landed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Yet there are only about 30 Flarfees in the country. We'll meet the Twin Cities' twin Flarfees: poet Elisabeth Workman and University of Minnesota English professor Maria Damon.

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Piece Description

Since 2001, members of the Flarflist Collective have spread their poetry via the Internet and at readings held at places like the Walker Art Center. Flarf has even landed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Yet there are only about 30 Flarfees in the country. We'll meet the Twin Cities' twin Flarfees: poet Elisabeth Workman and University of Minnesota English professor Maria Damon.

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Flarf 101

Nearly ten years ago a few good people who were irritated at the hyper-seriousness and exclusivity of the American Poetry Scene began writing a kind of anti-poetry that came to be called Flarf. As University of Minnesota English professor Maria Damon has said, “If laugh were an F word, it would be Flarf, because it sounds like laugh, larf, fluffy, kind of overly cutesy weird, nonsense baby talk.” Wouldn’t you know it, Flarf tends to look to the Internet, rather than to Nature or “the real world,” as its Muse.

With roots in the Twin Cities, which spawned public radio’s version of a Flarfee, Garrison Keillor, the movement picked up speed in the aught decade. It surfaced nationally last year when “Poetry” magazine devoted a segment of its July issue to Flarf. According to the narrator of “Flarf in Minnesota (tee hee),” “there are only about 30 Flarfees in the country.” I doubt this. I’d estimate that in July 2010 there are between 300 and 3000 Flarfees surfing Google for inspiration.

I very much like KFAI reporter Diane Richard’s piece about Flarf. It’s an ear opener, a laff-in that stretches beyond humor. I wish there were more examples of Flarf poems—perhaps another PRX piece could be devoted to a selection of verse, drawn possibly from four Flarfees reading at the Walker Gallery a couple of years ago. Anyway, the better of the two examples in this piece is a fairly serious thingamajig written by Elizabeth Workman: “Visualize a forest, coppery violet, pulsating. Inside the forest is a looking egg. Peering into a little porthole at the end of the egg is a zealot. Inside the zealot is an antichrist. Inside the antichrist, poetry.”

Transcript

HOST INTRO
First there was the art movement Fluxus. Then the marshmallow spread Fluffernutter. Now, meet two Twin Cities members of the Flarflist Collective, a group of poets spawned in the digital age. Reporter Diane Richard has the story.

NARRATOR Maria Damon has an intriguing way of describing the stick-in-your-eye poetry movement known as Flarf.

MARIA DAMON If laugh were an F word, it would be Flarf, because it sounds like laugh, larf, fluffy, kind of overly cutesy weird, nonsense baby talk. It sounds like freak, it sounds like fart, it sounds like barf. It just collapses everything that’s both endearingly cuddly and funny and ridiculous, and adolescent scatological humor at its most unabashed.

NARRATOR Damon is a professor of English literature at the University of Minnesota. On this summer night, she’s sitting across the table from the poet Elisabeth Workman.

ELISABETH WORKMAN...
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Intro and Outro

INTRO:

First there was the art movement Fluxus. Then the marshmallow spread Fluffernutter. Now, meet two Twin Cities members of the Flarflist Collective, a group of poets spawned in the digital age. Reporter Diane Richard has the story.

OUTRO:

Related Website

http://channel.walkerart.org/play/free-verse-the-flarf-collective/