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Gary Sullivan

Jacket Flarf feature: Introduction

The poems, plays, and prose in this special Jacket section on Flarf were first posted to the Flarflist, an e-mail listserv founded in early 2001 by members of the Flarflist Collective.

The half-dozen original members of the Flarflist Collective were joined over the years by some 30 other members, some of whom have stayed on, others who have left. For the first two years there was almost no discussion on the list. Poems and other texts were posted and responses took the form of new poems and other texts generated from previous postings.

The Flarflist Collective is hardly the first e-mail based collaborative enterprise, but it has been, despite the relatively occult nature of the project, one of the most visible. Discussions of Flarf and of Flarflist Collective activity have been broadcast by the BBC and published in online and in-print magazines such as Constant Critic, Jacket, The Nation, Rain Taxi, and The Village Voice. Even more discussion has taken place on blogs across the United States, and in Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Mexico, and elsewhere, and on listservs such as Lucipo and The Poetics List.

Despite the relative scarcity of publicly available work by members of the Flarflist Collective, an enormous amount of speculation about the work, about the project, and about the people involved has been generated in the first five years of the list’s existence, much of it within the last six months.

Flarf has been described as the first recognizable movement of the 21st century, as an in-joke among an elite clique, as a marketing strategy, and as offering a new way of reading creative writing. The act of writing flarf has been described as collaborating with the culture via the Web, as an imperialist or colonialist gesture, as an unexamined projection of self into others, as the conscious erasure of self or ego. Individual members have been described as brilliant, lazy, and smug, as satirists, fakes, and late-blooming Dadaists. One anonymous reader posting in someone’s blog comments box suggested that I be thrown into a wire cage at Bagram.

Very little of the discussion has dealt in any significant way with the work itself. While the collection that follows can hardly be called representative of five years’ of collective activity, it is hoped that it may provide a small window for anyone curious about what the Collective has been up to.

An anthology of writing by the Flarflist Collective is currently being put together. The New York-based theater company Medicine Show will host a FlarfFestival in Manhattan, from April 20-22, 2006, which will include performances, plays, radio plays, film and video, and discussions by members of the Collective and other, related artists.

Meanwhile, the curious reader is encouraged to seek out the following single-author titles published by members of the Collective since the founding of the list, all of which are either in print or forthcoming in 2006, and many of which are available through Small Press Distribution: 1341 Seventh Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 USA, Tel 800-869-7553, Internet:

Anne Boyer, Poundcasts (Typo/ Narwhal Press, forthcoming)

Jordan Davis, Million Poems Journal (Faux Press)

Maria Damon, “Electronic Poetry Assay: Diaspora, Silliness and Gender,” Cybertext Yearbook 2002-2003, Loss Pequeño Glazier and John Cayley, eds.

Katie Degentesh, The Anger Scale (Combo Books, forthcoming)

Benjamin Friedlander, Simulcast: Four Experiments in Criticism (University of Alabama Press)

Drew Gardner, Petroleum Hat (Roof)

Nada Gordon, V. Imp (Faux Press)

Nada Gordon, Folly (forthcoming)

Rodney Koeneke, On the Clamways (Sea.Lamb.Press)

Rodney Koeneke, Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, forthcoming)

David Larsen, The Thorn (Faux Press)

Michael Magee, My Angie Dickinson (Zasterle, forthcoming)

Michael Magee, Mainstream (BlazeVOX, forthcoming)

K. Silem Mohammad, Deer Head Nation (Tougher Disguises)

K. Silem Mohammad, Breathalyzer (Edge, forthcoming)

K. Silem Mohammad, Dutch Sound (Heretical Texts/ Factory School, forthcoming)

Tim Peterson, [title still TK] (Chax Press, forthcoming)

Rod Smith, You Bête (Interrupting Cow, forthcoming)

Gary Sullivan, Elsewhere (self-published)

Gary Sullivan, How to Proceed in the Arts (Faux Press)

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