Poetry of Anything. Now I Know This Is Called Flarf!


I. Have. Forgotten. To. Save.

Last Quarter’s Search Terms.

I hope you missed my poetry already. What could I do to compensate for that?

Inventing an allegedly new genre.

Poetry of Anything.

The rules are similar as for Search Term Poetry or Spam Poetry: Use continuous, unedited snippets from questionable internet sources.

  • Pick snippets from random internet sites.
  • Select exactly one quote from every page.
  • Hop from one page to the next by clicking a hyperlink on the first one.
  • Snippets have to be used in the order they have been encountered. Deletion is not allowed.

The following are preliminary rules – I will make them more loophole-proof below.

  • ‘A page’ is defined as the content accessible via one click or one ‘Enter’ after having entered data into a form, or having typed an address. If there is infinite scroll, you are lucky.
  • Do it reasonably fast. Less then 30 seconds per page.
  • Two clicks originating from the same page aren’t allowed.
  • It is not allowed to submit a desired phrase to a search engine and pick a line similar to the search term from the search results.
  • Don’t aim at navigating to pages you know well in order to pick phrases you know.

Here is the first Poem of Anything:

Know before you go

Sleep and Dreaming
how is it that we have studied it
no items to show

This has been an issue for a while now.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams
It doesn’t get nearly enough coverage.

Could a person do this?
I really just like whatever you decide to produce
Dark Energy and Dark Matter

after the first shock waves
Waiting for the vapors to clear
I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else

Lost in Translation
From papyrus to pixels
Finding Poems
a kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.

fake blurbs, real e-mail, dream narrative, conventional lyric
That was a difficult period and I couldn’t maintain my sanity
struggling with this today

The cake was clearly delicious.
we may use cookies

a new way to see the world
Speaking the Language of the Supernatural
Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Could not process
This is how it will be at the end of the age
walking around with big targets on their backs

heightened reality, almost cartoon-like
We had a reactor leak here now.

Please, give Positive Feedback


This was a nightmarish experience – feeling trapped in Hollywood gossip sites or photo blogs with hardly any text or outbound links, struggling a single line of error code, legal terms, my webmail page clicked in error. ‘BS’ was the degree of a guy mentioned on an About page.

Now I attempt to tighten the rules. (The list is the set of rules, not yet the poem)

  • Pick any start page of your liking or submit a term to a search engine.
  • Then advance from one page to the next only via links. One page is defined as all the text accessible via scrolling.
  • You have to pick one phrase from each page.
  • Lines must not be reshuffled or deleted.

I start with a Google search term – my chosen title:

Where Will This End

eventually suck the wind out of our sails
everyone is welcome

you can’t take control back
it can do whatever

some consider this exemption to be
which is used unless otherwise noted.

We do a little bit of magic

Maximize Conversion
possible ultimate suspension of your ability

fastest response
Must be prepared

Thank you for visiting


Now I was actually stuck within a bunch of IT security related sites though this was not intended. The hardest thing is how to get out again. Not for the faint of heart.

I have learned that all this is serious poetry – called Flarf!

From Can Flarf Every be Taken Seriously? (2009)

Almost a decade after its creation, the experimental poetry movement Flarf—in which poets prowl the Internet using random word searches, e-mail the bizarre results to one another, then distill the newly found phrases into poems that are often as disturbing as they are hilarious—is showing signs of having cleared a spot among the ranks of legitimate art forms.

Still, with its subversive stance, meta-mind mentality, pop-culture detritus, and mildly offensive language—this edgy new art form is difficult to pin down. Poet Sharon Mesmer describes the process this way: “There’s this idea that juxtaposition creates a little pop in your mind to take you out of your immediate, mundane reality. When we do these crazy things with Google, a lot of times we’re putting something beautiful together with something ugly, and it makes this third thing that is completely delightful and unexpected.”

Dark Side of the Elkement
Me on the dark side.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. I am glad you linked back to this post, as I had forgotten that I hadn’t gotten a chance to read it earlier. I enjoyed it, and it gives me an idea for trying something new to re-energize my own creativity. :)

    1. elkement says:

      I hope you will publish some of the results of your creative activities :-)

  2. You are able t create anything from anything. Hmmm–not a bad tagline for your blog, although I am quite fond of “I mean it!” It’s too bad that the search terms that are used to arrive at our sites are no longer revealed to us. I used to find them instructive.
    On a closing note I echo Dave’s thought–it is amazing just how much intelligence can be found when we look for it. Perhaps it’s just information hidden within the search algorithm or maybe it’s a thrilling testament to our brains’ capacity for distilling meaning from the world. Either way it’s uplifting.

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks :-)
      Yes – I find it amazing, too! I spent nearly the whole day yesterday on a “contract flarf project” (flarf triggered by images that have actually been created in a perhaps flarfy way), and I had a lot of fun with it. I
      have read more of these overly serious articles on flarf, including the flarf poems by “real poets”, and it got me thinking about what art really is. I never considered that stuff to be art but it seems it is. What I find amazing is that my personal flarf always has the same “flavor”, so somehow a part of my personality seems to sneak in…
      Anyway, after two challenging weeks it was the perfect way to relax!!

  3. Isn’t it interesting how our minds are able to read such Flarf … and make some sense out of it? I suppose that everyone gets something different from it … just like the ‘real’ stuff! Congratulations. So, do you hang out with the experimental poetry folks that apparently troll the internet? D

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks, Dave! I don’t know any other flarf poets yet – but I did hang out with other (serious) visual artists this week … accidentally .. and I am right now working on my flarf poetry contribution to a joint project I’ve been invited to, no less! :-)

      1. Oh my … perhaps you’ll become a world-renown Flarf poet. Perhaps that book of poems isn’t too far off in the future now … Chapter 1. Search Term Poems, Chapter 2. Spam Poems, Chapter 3. Flarf Poems, Chapter 4. The Physics of Residential Heating! I’ll buy a copy! D

  4. vera ersilia says:

    Interesting but too laborious to do ! it is easier for me to write what flows into my head from time to time…

    1. elkement says:

      It is indeed laborious, but that makes it feels more like ‘creating’ something. I have also seen projects based on creating automated poems from ‘internet input’.

  5. howardat58 says:

    James Joyce did it already, without the internet!

    1. elkement says:

      Thanks – I had no idea that James Joyce was a pioneer in that respect. Seems I need to google :-)

  6. marksackler says:

    I wonder–what would TS Eliot do if he lived in this era?

    1. elkement says:

      Probably trying to avoid too much exposure to internet content in order not to have his creativity replaced by clichèd memes? Or just the opposite?

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