These comments began as a response to some remarks in the comment box to my mini-review of Drew's Petroleum Hat, but they started getting so long that I decided to give them their own post.
I'm pretty sure that the perception that "flarf" is somehow "computer-generated," or somehow more "artificially created" than other poetry, plays into some of the resistance it has met (a resistance fed by the attribution of grand "claims" to flarfists). The fact is that even when it uses Google as a compositional tool, flarf is never just "generated" out of the computer. In Drew's case, for example, he has taken a source text, or bits of different source texts, and arranged and changed them with the same intentionality that someone would use in selecting and combining words that are to be constrained by iambic pentameter, or rhyme, or whatever. I could devise a program that would produce a "poetic" text all by itself, but that would be a completely different thing from what Drew has done here, and--to me at least--it would be pretty uninteresting. What makes Drew's poetry interesting to me is precisely the sense, meaning, intention, etc. that he has put into it, because he is the actual intelligence behind it. That the raw materials come from sources found on the internet is important only to the extent that those materials tend to have a certain variety of "flavors" not found so much elsewhere. He could just as easily have used a dictionary as his source, or a novel by Charles Dickens, or his own emails to and from friends, or the words that happened to be circulating in his brain at the time.
This doesn't in itself touch the broad objection that the poetry doesn't "make sense." I think maybe people who make that objection are just looking for a different kind of sense from the sense that Drew makes, and that's a matter of taste and reading habits. (And this is of course not a concern unique to flarf; it's an oft-rehearsed difficulty with modern and contemporary poetry in general.) But the fact that the poetry is built around collaged materials found (among other places) on the internet doesn't make it any more or less "artificial" than other poetry. At any rate, as artists must constantly keep reminding themselves and others, "artificial" used to be a compliment, in ye olden days. It meant splendidly assembled, with craft and skill and a maker's vision. The kind of poetry Drew writes is conceived in part as a critique of these magisterial categories, but that doesn't mean it doesn't also keep them fresh and alive.