Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

A Quiz: Vogon Poetry or Flarf

My last post talked about the Vogon Poetry app for the iPhone. Vogon poetry, if you’re familiar with The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is considered the third-worst poetry in the universe. Flarf has come to be known–by one definition anyway–as intentionally bad poetry.

Flarf got the main(stream) stage this month with its inclusion in Poetry alongside conceptual writing and Poetry‘s regular fare, and when reading it, I saw what I thought were some similarities between Flarf and Vogon poetry. The idea of this post is to put some bits of flarf next to some bits of Vogon and see if people (the eight or so who wander by here) can tell which is which. After all, I’ve paid for both the app and the subscription–I ought to try to get something out of it. Answers will be at the end of the post.

1. And down by the crying orchid
I impregnated death’s brain
Under the hut of the horn:
a candor has no chugging.

2. An apple on my ninja.
Alas! Yet I destructed. I vowed.
If a towel is harmless, can a gravy be extinct?
It was only reading from soy to soup.

3. Glitter is the Swiss Army knife
of the most bedazzlingly ridiculous
emotions: the part just before
the paranoid cheese-maker says,

“Whatever you do in Palm Springs,
don’t yodel”

4. Thanks, puncture, for tumbling the reason,
I get to win for another look.
Who was more not particularly good
on that moist mistake?
You who is slurping, or me who ponders you?

5. April 22 is a nice day. I really like it.
I mean it’s not as fantastic as that Hitler
unicorn ass but it’s pretty special to me.
CREAMING bald eagle there is a tiny Abe
Lincoln boxing a tiny Hitler. MAGIC UNICORNS

6. The 4th quarter gets pretty intense and the announcers are usually trying to figure out who is going to become overwhelmed by their own arrogant nightmares. It would upset the stomach of the balance of nature. I always go red over the stupidest things and I have no clue why. Whether it’s speaking in front of the class or someone asking me why I think I have the right to say anything.

7. O limp steam,
my creative Mainframes to me, and to all sofas–
Are as an informational
INCOMPETENCE
Upon positive hermits; turned, moistly.

And scantily and snootily the filth constructed
Evervate where the hermits restrain
Round an asteroid there tortuously,
The knuckle of candor.

The Vogon poems are constructed by the app, which claims that no two poems are alike. I don’t know what algorithms are being used to ensure that, though in some of the examples I didn’t include, the program uses nonsense words similar to the kind Douglas Adams used in The Hitchiker’s Guide. A linguist could probably give you details about the way those words are built–all I can tell you is that they sound similar. My point is that those words are undoubtedly part of the process to ensure difference in the poems. But overall, the poems tend to read like a Mad Lib combined with a random word generator.

So there’s certainly some difference in the construction of the Vogon poems as opposed to Flarf, but what about the finished product? Both are intentionally bad. Does that make Vogon poetry a machine-built Flarf? Does the generator get recognition as the poet or does the programmer? I’m not a Flarfist so I’m not going to speak for them, but it does seem like it’s a question worth discussing.

By the way, the answers, for those of you who haven’t seen the very limited selection of Flarf that Poetry published, are 1,2,4, and 7 are Vogon and 3,5 and 6 are Flarf.

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June 30, 2009 - Posted by | flarf, Vogon Poetry

1 Comment »

  1. Proud to say I nailed it. :-)I think the Vogon poetry app deserves credit as intentionally bad poetry: that's exactly what it is. And Douglas Adams was certainly making a comment on poetry when he invented the idea in the first place: poems so bad they maim and kill. If humans could invent poems so potent, you know they would, and Flarf would be illegal in 48 states. You'd have to apply for concealed carry permits for your cantos. There would be a NFA insisting that you will pry this poem from their cold dead hands.

    Comment by Amy | June 30, 2009 | Reply


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