Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nada Gordon on Flarf and 'generation'

"Let's discuss this, shall we? Or rather, deconstruct it. Firstly, Flarf is not (in the robotic sense of the term) "generated." Flarf poems are written. Their materials are, in Kasey's term, sought. I almost prefer the word rescued. Some poems may be "generated," like that wonderful "Random Poem Generator" that was hanging around the internet for a while, but Flarf poems are very much willed and constructed.

In a larger sense of the term, I suppose you could say this poem was generated if that is how you think of the mechanism of creation: I do often think of poems as almost biological extrusions, like skin tags or fibroids or, as I posted recently on facebook, reflux."

Read the whole post. It's very good. Especially the thing about "valor sets".

Though I would have to argue that a "generated poem", be it aleotory work like that of Mac Low, or a found text, or even the product of the "Random Poem Generator" Nada mentions, is still "Willed and Constructed", though in various different ways. Cages Mesostics allow for the insertion of intentionally chosen "Wing Words", and Mac Low would carefully recraft the proccesses he used if the initial product did not turn out as he wanted. The craft, the will and the construction are simply removed a level from the text.

In the case of generators and the like (i use various online text-alteration programs in my own work - the two pieces in Brief and the sequence in Otoliths utilised these - these could be thought of as collaborations of a sort; and even on the most basic level there is will and construction inherent in the act of pressing a button, and in recognising what comes out as a poem.


Andrea said...

That is very interesting. I think there's always an amount of will and construction on the part of the author of those kinds of poems. Even if it's using an existing text, the author still chooses the text and how the results will form a poem.

It's interesting how there seems to be a difference in the way constructed texts are viewed as opposed to the way constructed sound pieces are viewed. I don't think many people would question the sound-maker's authorship so much.

That reminds me of something in that Joyelle McSweeney interview where she was saying something about the text resembling the author. I think that if you asked a bunch of people to do a particular poem project of that type and you had an idea of them and their writing it wouldn't be too difficult to figure out who had authored what.

I had a go at a poem of that type and I think it had something in common with the kinds of things I write, but perhaps that just means that I myself always write things of a certain kind and have trouble coming up with anything different.

Ross Brighton said...

With authorship questions I kind of thing of the process as being a kind of ur-author in a way - One of the tenants of the Oulipo is that the restraint encated must manifest itself thematically in the work

Andrea said...

I haven't read many of their texts - sounds interesting.