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Deborah Caulfield's blog - disability arts online
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Life, the universe, and flarf. / 6 January 2015

Results of having Googled 'what is the answer'

What is the answer. Captured screen image

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I wrote this flarf poem in the first few days of this New Year, having written almost nothing for a month. I hope it sparks the imagination and provides the reader with a fresh, unique perspective on life. 

Flarf seems to have come about by accident. It began as a send-up, a bit of a lark, by Gary Sullivan, to bring out the inherent awfulness, etc., of some pre-existing text.

Flarf his now an accepted and respectable way to generate poetry. Flarf is taken seriously. Poets enjoy writing it and readers, apparently, enjoy reading it.

Dan Hoy said flarf is like collage; it's what happens when poets spend too much time fucking around on the internet.

For me, a newcomer to the form, flarf works as a creative laxative, for the times when I sit there needing to write but it just won’t come out.

The starting point for this poem was rather straightforward, neither clever nor stupid; Into Google’s search bar I typed: What is the answer.

Working with various sentences and snippets in the search results, it soon became apparent that the phrase what is the answer can be read as both a question and a statement; I tried to use this ambiguity in the poem, make it more definite, which is a slight contradiction.

I like contradictions in poems.

 
What is the answer
 
he knocked
and entered
without waiting
for a thing
said
done
or written
 
a reply
response
or return
 
a reaction
to a statement
or situation
 
a solution
to the poverty and unemployment problem
a remedy
a way out
is a properly funded range of services
 
say or write something
to someone
 
of course
I can
she answered
 
simply increasing the number of troops is
a quick fix is
not
the answer
 
reply
respond
speak
make a rejoinder
act
in reaction
to
a sound
such as
a telephone
or knock
or ring
at the door
 
Digby answered
 
anyway
 
the ultimate question
takes 7½ million years
deep thought
to compute
and check the answer
 
what is mrs short for?
 
madam
didn't originate
as the term describing the female head
of a whorehouse
in use
long before
 
for
the real answer
to life
the universe
and everything
ask a grown-up
the almighty
 
it takes 7½ million years
to calculate
 
so
 
when
your username
is the answer
what is the question
 
what
is the question