Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding a flarfing...

Sounds funny huh?  Flarf is a type of poetry, until recently I had never heard of before.  Flarf poetry has been characterized as an avant garde poetry movement of the late 20th century and the early 21st century. It is an interesting form of expression, and isn't easily understood by all who read it.  To create Flarf poetry, the first creators began to search Google with odd search terms, taking the phrases of results and coupling them with other random found phrases to create a poem.  The poems use an odd aesthetic, as the movement is dedicated to exploring the inappropriateness of the art form.  The results of these poems usually yield hilarious and sometimes disturbing creations, in various forms of text and presentation.  The term Flarf was originally coined by the poet Gary Sullivan, one of the earliest Flarf writers. Here is an example by poet Katie Degentesh:
I Loved My Father

I loved my father and I loved Jesus.
What was I to do?
I felt like a canoe
that was being pulled apart by two strong men.

I expressed that eloquently by imitating his life,
by becoming more and more ineffectual daily.

People would generally hide from him
because he looked so American

I didn’t know that my father was controlling and manipulative.
I wanted to glorify Him by paying off the debt of sinful man

At least he could’ve explained why
he didn’t want me to play with the toy gun.

He really cared about us.
Maybe he had no feelings towards or against other people, either.

Rather than be exposed to one more sales pitch
They spit on me and I ran away

Nothing happened for almost a year then
He’d call the State Police just to try and settle me down

If you got your finger cut off on the
on the thought of killing him
He got angry and he wanted to get even.

I love plants and trees, but
I wasn’t allowed to go out or talk.

He was a wonderful man,
dealt with the servants of the castle
made a good living and provided well for his family
shared his affections with his boyfriend on weekends

I loved him from afar.
I sucked my thumb until I was six years old.
I didn’t realize it at the time.

When I was your age, he said,
“I had a square piece of white cloth to be made into
firstborn children of God, truly made perfect as God.”

He looked at me, and he knew I had stolen it.
A man will be hated by his own family.

I hated Listerine and I hated my father.
I do not know whether he is alive or not.

I took what I wanted, and left him spoiled behind me.
I was reborn in Ireland, in 1753.

     When I first began reading flarf poetry, as recommended by a few friends, I didn't understand it.  I thought it was a waste of energy and an un organized excuse for a poem- anyone can take google search results and slap them onto a page and call it a poem...right?   Maybe not.  Though the poems are discombobulated, they seem to follow a common theme, and when they don't they almost seem as if it is a stream of consciousness.  I have found that writing a stream of consciousness without woe, can turn out to be a beautiful thing, because sometimes we second guess what our mind is trying to relay to our brain.
     The reason I was introduced to flarf poetry in the first place, was due to the website  .  The website is a creation of Steve Roggenbuck, a 23 year old Chicagoan and self proclaimed poet.  Steve, together with a few behind the scenes editors, manages the website, creating bits of poetry, videos, gifs, photoshopped creations, and more.  Using the internet as his form of sharing his poetry, he has acquired followers and friends alike that regularly keep up with his videos, as he posts them daily and weekly.  The website has a variety of things on it, including rants, silly tangents, mock yoga, and reinterpretations of already created art.  One of my favorite things that steve does is print flarf poetry on large white cards and posters and displays his poetry via different posters on a video.  Even better, Roggenbuck is obsessed with Helvetica font, my personal favorite.
    The following video is one of my favorite videos by Roggenbuck, as he addresses poetry by my favorite poet, E.E. Cummings.  In the video he takes excerpts of various poems of Cummings' and creates something new from the existing works...

I don't expect everyone that reads flarf poetry, or watches the videos on the website to like it, or even completely understand it.  I think flarf is so great because each reader will be affected by the words differently, since they don't have clear intentions.  This kind of poetry envelopes everything that is my generation- instantaneous action, organized chaos, and leaving the door for interpretation open.  And for the record, Steve's intense love for Justin Beiber's music doesn't really have anything to do with flarf.

I think it is important for designers to explore all corners of the art world, such as poetry in this case.  The idea of non relating things coming together to create one beautiful thing can work in almost any design case, especially in a group setting.

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