Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Response to Word Clouds/Flarf . . . .

The quote below is taken from Dale's critic on Possum Ego. I will be basing most of my argument around this.

"And also, and this is the part some won’t like, I’d like to know if flarf is not engaged in the production of tag clouds? Is not the stated purpose of flarf just this, to create tag clouds through 'combination and remixing'outside of the contexts of discourse that provided meaningful space for the words in the first place? Flarf poems resist criticism because they resist meaning by voiding words of the contexts of their origin."

Wouldn't this classify Stein or the Language poets as word clouds as well? Word clouds, at least from my understanding, are potentially visual pieces of art but where they lose interest for me is the lack of human contact they emerge from. They are not created by the poet with the purpose of defamiliarizing/recontextualizing the words. Flarf, or any other poetry that aims to use words in a way different from the usual/the expected, does so with this in mind. Take Stein for example: she saw "repetition" more accurately as "insistence." If I use the word "fish" in one sentence and a few lines later use it again but surrounded by entirely different words, "fish" takes on a whole new meaning/feeling/urgency. Word clouds have this power to insist but in such a way that (for me at least) does not cause me to perceive the "meaning" or even the sound of the words in a different way. It exists as a word yes, but it is not made more beautiful for me simply by emerging on the screen in various sizes. If it is, it does so at a level somewhere outside of language. What Stein, the Language poets and Flarf do is insist -- the meaning they create within their poems is not concrete or definable according to one set agenda but there is no doubt a new meaning emerges with each insistence, each sentence and their ability to recontextualize. Just because Drew does not assert the idea of "global conspiracies" with a discourse about the topic does not mean its placement within the poem does not cause the reader to associate a new meaning/to hear and see these words in a new space thus opening their mind up to a different thought process.

I agree with "Jane Dark" that our idea of "meaning" has to be looked at and that tag clouds can be "interesting" and "communicative." This being said (and in accordance with the argument I have already made,) I do not think word clouds can be placed in the same category with poetry such as Flarf. A conversation in relation to it and Dada collages or intermedia art seems to be a more likely place.

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