Anarcho-Flarf Vandalism! (or, 3k+ pages of false poetry!)

He loses the fingers, sudden as
Sarah Gridley

That poem is on page 3076 of Issue 1, a wonderful jab at culture by (and possibly Steve McLaughlin), an experimental poetry group.

Why is it interesting? Because Sarah Gridley, whoever she is, didn’t write that poem. In fact, none of the 3,000+ authors listed wrote the pieces that are attributed to them. It’s a 3785 page PDF file poetry anthology of beautiful lies and blasphemy!

One of the most fun parts is reading all of the writers respond in the comments. Tons of them are hopping mad. Others get it.

Silliman (whoever that is), is worried about his good name and makes vague threats about suing the editors. He also calls it “anarcho-flarf vandalism”. And all I gotta say is, go anarcho-flarf vandalism! I wonder what the anarcho-flarf flag would be. Maybe black and newspaper print? I could get down with that.

Honestly, I haven’t been excited about poetry in years. Or art, really, though I have to pretend like I am. Dada and surrealism got sucked into mainstream art, what’s left? Well, for starters, 3,000 poem anthologies of god-knows-what.

One poet that took it well and spoke reasonably on the subject is Sharanya Manivannan, who explains a bit more about the nature of the project and also the root of the word “anarcho-flarf”.

4 thoughts on “Anarcho-Flarf Vandalism! (or, 3k+ pages of false poetry!)”

  1. “Whoever she is” is me. Thanks, chief. Let’s keep the wonderful jabs and lies coming! They’re beautiful! I get it! It’s brilliant! Why did no one think of mis-attributing poems to people sooner? Brilliant!

  2. Sarcasm doesn’t come out particularly well on the internet, does it? Regardless, we’ve clearly stated that this poem was not by you, and I will be quite surprised if anyone thinks that those poems are by who they say they are by.

    I can imagine that the “whoever that is” might have come across as snarky, but I pulled your name and the attributed poem out at near-random, looking for a piece that was short and somewhat interesting. I don’t follow modern poetry, as I stated in the post, and didn’t know who almost any of the false authors of the anthology were. I wouldn’t expect you to follow and know who I am, just because I’ve written a book.

  3. Magpie,

    I do sincerely apologize for my sarcasm, which is a lousy form of communication. To my ears, an enthusiastic endorsement of lies and jabs sounds really strange, and I think that is what I was trying to echo back, via all those exclamation points.

    Yes, you have clearly stated the poem is not by me: that is hard to miss. But you are, at the same time, celebrating the mis-attribution (“beautiful lies and blasphemy!”), and deriving some enjoyment from it (“One of the most fun parts…”).

    As for the “whoever she is” part, there was a one-in-3000+ chance that you would find me, which is kind of cool, really. You mistake my objection: I would never presume that you should know or follow my work, not at all. What bothered me was the (yes I think snarky) lack of curiosity about who I MIGHT be, or what this might mean to me. It was your lack of empathy that bugged me, and led me to mirror the snarkiness (apologies again).

    In the end, I’m not sure how I feel about this Anarcho-Flarf hi-jinx. I kind of like the poem that’s mis-attributed to me. I think poets CAN be ridiculously self-important, and entitled, and vain about their work. Two minutes in an AWP conference makes that clear. If I had it to do over, I’d be a tree doctor, and be DOING something in the world. So this “taking the piss” out of us is perhaps a necessary reality check.

    Should we be examining the question of “authorship”? Yes, I think we should. But I do think there are more imaginative, and kind, and productive ways of “unseating” the author. I like the idea of publishing things anonymously, or working on poems collaboratively, in which no one knows who the author is at any one moment.

    The act of mis-attribution, even in fun, and as culture-jab, feels like the wrong way to go about it. Perhaps it is not cool to be earnest about anything, to believe in the possibility of craft and hard work, but when you spend many many years of your life thinking about the making of poems, and teaching about the making of poems, and when you sign your name to that work, not (I hope not) as an ego-trip, but as a gesture of solidarity and vulnerability, it is upsetting to have someone fuck with your name. Funny, sort of, too, from an existential angle, but mostly upsetting.

    You say you are a relative newcomer to contemporary poetry. I am not well-versed in anarchical theory, but I would hope that there is, inside it, a respect for individual expression, a belief in the individual’s right to shape his or her own identity.

    Thanks for your response, which did make me re-think my sarcasm. & Best wishes.

    I see you are a vegan. That is fantastic. I am a vegetarian, and have been for about twenty years. I lack the discipline to be a vegan, but I admire very much those who make that commitment.

  4. Fair enough, your response has humbled me. The idea of an individual having control over their own identity is indeed a strong point, and I understand that you were frustrated by my not looking further into who the author I chose at random was.

    But I still hold this project as an interesting prank. I wouldn’t say that it is poets specifically that need the piss taken, either: certainly, poetry has enough modern detractors that it doesn’t warrant any further specific abuse. But, nonetheless, I enjoy the prank. Particularly since it seems to only have really drawn the attention of the poets it mentioned… the ire it drew was its only form of promotion, and I applaud what anti-art has had to offer to art in general since DaDa.

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