Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poetry, Whatsa Matter?

Hey! It's Saturday, so here are some poetry links.

Ron Silliman on poetry contests:

Consider the best known of these awards, the Yale Younger Poets, and the piece I linked to last Monday from the Houston Chronicle about Fady Joudah winning the current round. The article states, reasonably enough, that "previous winners include such iconic figures as John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, John Hollander and W.S. Merwin" without quite noticing that not one of these figures is under the age of 78 and that maybe more recent winners have not gone on to such iconic status. But it’s worth remembering that anyone who is 78 began at a time when the number of publishing poets in the United States was in the low hundreds, not the tens of thousands. Further, if these four poets didn’t come out of the same community, exactly, the world they arose from was small enough: as undergrads they attended Harvard, Radcliffe, Columbia and Princeton, in that order, and all were picked by W.H. Auden (who asked Ashbery to submit a manuscript, rather than picking one that had been sent in according to the rules).

Al Filreis on Flarf:
Easy enough to define, harder for some to appreciate, harder still perhaps for some of the flarfists to stay with it (in any particular sense) after the months or years of excitement about the mode has worn off. Then again, a number have managed to keep the excitement up.

Surely a flarfist himself or herself wrote the Wikipedia entry on "flarf poetry"; it's quite a good little essay on all this. "Its first practitioners practiced an aesthetic dedicated to the exploration of 'the inappropriate' in all of its guises. Their method was to mine the Internet with odd search terms then distill the results into often hilarious and sometimes disturbing poems, plays, and other texts." Joyelle McSweeney expressed my own relief and delight: "This is utterly tonic in a poetry field crowded by would-be sincerists unwilling to own up to their poems."

My attitude towards Flarf would roughly approximate "hard to appreciate," at least insofar as it sounds more fun than it actually turns out to be.

Allen Ginsberg did a better job of being genuinely playful, funny, and revolting:

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