Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War"/Is Flarf "Scorching Irony" or "Living through the Fantasy"?

Drew Gardner's "Chicks Dig War" became something of an anthem for the Flarf Collective and its supporters, but it was not without its critics, including Gary Sullivan on his blog, Elsewhere:

Does google "lead" people to this ugliness? Hell yes. It's there all over the place in our virtual world...certainly there are more intelligent ways of pointing to it and commenting on it. Just spitting it back out is suspect. There are no flarf poems about how funny lynchings are--are there? So why is it funny to dehumanize women (e.g., "Chicks Dig War")? Is that just an easier target? Something you can still get away with "in the community"? As said the wise man Pee-Wee Herman, "That's so funny, I forgot to laugh." If "Chicks Dig War" is the "Howl" of our generation we've got a big problem here. Problematic doesn't even begin to describe it.

Might I also add, in addition to its uneasily-exultant relationship toward women, is its replication of another of the cultural detritus swept from the web: the pacifist as pathological. All of which to say is that flarf courts the very opposite of critique, and even Douglass' notion of scorching irony--it courts just being retrograde as a camp gesture.

Here is yet another possibility: that Flarf is (if you're willing to defend it), engaging in the dangerous Zizekian "living through the fantasy." In other words, by becoming medium to these variously retrograde language-utterances of the web, we acknowledge their claim over us, in us, and own up to them in a way that p.c. language refuses. In the owning up, perhaps, is the possibility of paying out.

Here's Drew reading the poem at the Flarf Festival:


shanna said...

that bit from gary you're quoting is actually from a spoof piece re: language poetry by d. bromige, i believe!

Nada said...

I think the poem is neither of the choices you offer here. What really makes it so funny/uncomfortable:

1) the grain of truth at the heart of its absurd premise

2) Its rhythmic insistence on the absurd premise

Irony is by one definition meaning the opposite of what you are literally saying; in so far as CDW is a pacifist poem it does this to some degree, but it is not that simple. The discomfiting fact that many women are attracted to power and aggression as indicators of virility lies at the heart of the poem's effectiveness. I don't find that the poem "dehumanizes" women, incidentally; it just makes fools of them, and of men too in the process.