LOL: Issue 1 and the Internet Post-Avant

Well, that was interesting!

Issue 1, edited by Stephen McLaughlin and Jim Carpenter purports to be a 3,785 page anthology of new poetry, published in PDF format under the for godot imprint. The front cover of the anthology lists, in miniature print, the names of all contributors. These names have also been posted on Ron Silliman’s blog, so I won’t bother reposting the whole list here. Suffice to say, even a cursory inspection of the list immediately begins to raise eyebrows, for several reasons.

Firstly, the inclusion of new poems by names like ‘Hadewijch of Antwerp’ and ‘Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle’ alongside William Shakespeare, Frank O’Hara and Bertolt Brecht suggests there’s a strong element of piss-take involved here.

Secondly, the inclusion of poets who have written in or around a specific kind of experimental poetics (in this case, internet-based search poetry, or Flarf poetry or whatever) suggests that the satire is aimed at a particular audience, namely: those very same poets.

Therefore, in the Australian context, we find the names of John Tranter and Laurie Duggan but not John Kinsella, Robert Adamson or Les Murray. Pam Brown appears, naturally, right before Alexander Pope. Jill Jones, Cassie Lewis and Chris Mansell also make the ‘list’. Mansell, for one, has since reacted strongly against the hoax, via comments on the official anthology ‘page’.

Even closer to (my) home, the inclusion of US poets like Andrew Zawacki and Adam Fieled alongside their Australian generational counterparts like Michael Farrell, Derek Motion and Ivy Alvarez seems to me suggesting even further that groupings such as these, which can be made, form part of a vast, amorphous network.

These poets are interconnected by their use of IT not merely in order to communicate but also to incorporate network potential into their own writing practices, and therefore engaging in Flarf or computer-generated poetry or spam poems or whatever.

I guess my own inclusion here, if I am to engage in some abstract navel-gazing, is due to my having edited a collection of search poems for Cordite; or having used search poetry to stimulate students of creative writing; or having written and published a number of search poems myself.

Whatever the genesis of the list (a detail I hope we hear about soon), the crucial question is the method of these poems’ composition, for as Silliman notes:

No, the quirkiest thing about Issue 1 is going to be that, if it includes your name – and, hey, it probably does – you have no memory of having written that text, nor of submitting it to Issue 1. Or, as Ed Baker put it so elegantly in the comments stream to For Godot,


As for my own poem, well, here it is. Read it and weep, future generations …

A kind of person 

After you will be uneasy, like 
      a slow gaze 
Sinking in a 
      promotion, sea will 
            trail a thing, saying an 
                  unscathed fluke 
You will be lavender 
Now that demoralization will 
      be vengeful, you will have demoralization in 
            your idleness 
You will welcome the delight beyond 
      the thigh 

Like a deck 

Oily facts, oily vengeful matters 
That friend will be yours 

Declines should transform 
      into persons 
My reading, you will 
            be here, hearing 
                  like a chief 

I think my work here is done.


  1. Hi Davey,
    The whole reaction to this has been quite interesting – it’s a moral panic kind of world at the moment, isn’t it?

    BTW, I nicked some of your comments in my initial ruminations.

    Like you, I’ll be interested to hear more from the anthology’s editors on how and, possibly, why. I still think the joke’s on us. And I like ‘your’ poem 🙂

    Cheers, Jill

  2. hi david, i think the project is sweet. and i’m happy to be included. all of the blogroll from silliman is in and with the dead poets, perhaps their inclusion was not too hard to source. i like the poem allocated to my name on page 3527 and i might post to my own blog.

    i’ve just written four new pages gifted from erica – a bit of shifting and i reckon the ulrick or the newcastle is mine (lol) maybe…not.

    there is way too much bullshit hanging around contemporary poetics, this kinda lightens the mood.

  3. Hi Louise,

    Yes, I agree it lightens the mood, and it would seem to make sense that the names are taken from Ron’s blog – kind of suggests the real joke’s on him. But then, he never replies to anyone in his own comments threads, so I guess there’s no point bringing it up ‘over there’ …

  4. Ern Malley would be laughing (if he’ld ever existed.) The funniest thing about this jape was the reaction of the American intellectual poets. Silliman and his crew cracked me up. What a bunch of wankers.

  5. Hi Paul,

    well, yes and no – I think it’s a bit dangerous to start labelling people ‘intellectual’ (what, no one else is?), or a ‘crew’ (as owner of one of the blogs listed on his page, I object!) or ‘wankers’ (well, ahem …) in this context – as they’re charges that are levelled at both ‘sides’ of this ‘debate’, such as it is.

    As for Ern Malley, well I think that too is a cautionary tale – as the jokers were pretty much joked in the end. And while the poems endure (as well as the ‘legend’ – because we’re speaking of Australia after all, where we just *have* to have more of those;-), I still have to remind myself they were written by two right-wing gits, with a very cynical objective – not so funny anymore.

    IMHO, of course.

  6. Of course. I certainly apologise if I didn’t take a sufficiently high intellectual tone (and shall resist the urge to say ‘QED’ re the ‘w’ word.) I’m fascinated, do you think their right wing politics is in some way relevant to the Ern Malley jape? I’ve always felt the pricking of over inflated egos was a general kind of noble Australian trait.

  7. Hi Paul,

    Haha, well, let us not mention that W word again! 😉

    But here’s an intellectual question:

    Would you find a joke funny if John Howard or Phillip Ruddock told it? Better still, if they told it together?

    That’s what Ern Malley reads like to me now …

    Just my opinion of course …


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