Monday, March 16, 2009


Ara Shirinyan's Your Country Is Great: Afghanistan–Guyana (Futurepoem, 2008) is great fun, even if it's not one of those books you want to devour in a sitting. Shirinyan feeds the phrase "[a country] is great" into Google (with quotation marks, so he gets precise appearances of, say, "Barbados is great"), then constructs poems out of the results. Great fun, and telling: for Afghanistan, you get lots of appearances of "the need for X in Afghanistan is great"; for other countries, it's more like "diving in the Bahamas is great," or just plain "France is great."

I'm terribly perplexed, tho: is this Flarf or is it Conceptual Poetry?

For a lark, inspired by Susan Schultz's Google results for "unfortunately, Susan," I entered "Mark Scroggins is great." Alas, zero results. Same for "Mark Scroggins is okay." At least "Mark Scroggins sucks" only got one result: "Mark Scroggins sucks! After 6 games, he is all the way down in 13th!" on the "" forum. I'm guessing that's my alter ego, MS the professional bowler.


K. Silem Mohammad said...

Ara's book is great! And it's one of the many (well, several) books in recent years, Conceptual, Flarf, or other, that use Google as a compositional tool. As such, it points up the error of thinking of all Google-sculpted poetry as Flarf, or vice versa. Though I will concede that this particular book has a flarfy feel to it--more so, say, than Rob Fitterman's equally Conceptual and equally excellent This Window Makes Me Feel.

Vance Maverick said...

The procedure is also out there in the "lay" Internet, at Googlism.