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Thomas Basbøll

I'm following along with interest. In my explications (2), I look at the sources of Kasey's "Wallace Stevens". One thing I'll be looking for in your readings is some justification for the idea that Kasey "pretty much surrenders the technique of collage to a set of corporate algorithms".

By the way, it's not just something that Hoy "points out"; it's the main thesis of his essay. I think it is completely off the mark, but it seems to be something that resonates with people.

We had this topic up at Lucipo in early Feb. Some people argued that the corportate influence of Google on Flarf is *obvious* and no argument really needs to be made to demonstrate it.

So I arranged the following experimental "poems" (I don't claim that they're good) *from the same set of search results*:


With his strong feelings and rhythm,
unassuming-looking but high
with a lightning pace, with
red herrings
to make a
Sunday morning of the Congress,

“I’m in awe.”


Timing, pace, and rhythm,
high-performance interconnect cables

to use with his new fast read,
(reviewed by Sunday morning Snail Pace.)

A whole meal!
With Slow Food Australia

likely to handle red herrings “in awe at his pace”,
building relations with community groups
that were interested in the grant.

My very simple point here is that the Googled “terms” cannot be used to account for their (specifically poetic) similarities or (especially) their differences (since there is no difference in the results out of which their built). They stand in exactly the same relation to whatever "order" Google might determine. There is, then, no way to make sense of these poems (since there is no way to distinguish between them) in terms of the "corporate algorithms" that "generated" them.

This is also a way of answering a question you put a while back. You asked me what I meant when I said the emotion in a Flarf poem stands in an arbitrary relation to the emotion in the sources.

Thomas Basbøll

The quotes around "terms" are meaningless. (Leftover from the Lucipo post.)


Jonathan Mayhew

You talk like being an elitist is a bad thing...


Hey Thomas -

I hadn't wanted to deeply dive into the whole google algorithm issue, which is why I only mentioned it in passing. As I understand the argument, by using google, you're actually accessing a very limited subset of human expression privledged by google - I can see how that would be problematic given some claims about Flarf, although I don't see how much more problematic it is than any other limited "source-set" for any other type of collage. There's probably a difference between visual and literary collage as far as sourcing goes. I'll try to pay attention to that as I go forward though.

Thanks for the patience,



Jonathan -

Yeah, I do.


Thomas Basbøll

Just to be clear: a Flarf poem does not convey the "expression" of its sources. Anyone who has looked at the sources of a Flarf poem will know this. ("Wallace Stevens" is a case in point; Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War" is another.) What is expressed in the poem (if anything) is not what is expressed in the sources.

That said, you're right about that "given some claims about Flarf": I think the "corporatism" charge is a bit like the "satire" defense. Groundless. Unnecessary. Distracting.

More here:



Minor point about the Karr essay, which originally appeared in Parnassus and was reprinted in one of the Pushcart anthologies. I find it odd that of all the people she targets for being obscure and overly decorative, it's the New Formalists, who, as a general rule, value clarity. Furthermore, her examples are from poets, like James Merrill, who aren't generally associated with the NF. In other words, I think she picked the wrong straw man as a target for her points.


thank you...no One wants to say the Obvious...boring poems are...something worth getting a PHd. in English For, or is it in 'creative writing'?
Karen Hinkel

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