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Jason Camlot, Vlarf

Jason Camlot

Victorian literature as a playground for the construction of strange, sad, and funny forms and feelings in poetry.

In the early 2000s flarf poetry emerged as an avant-garde movement that generated disturbing and amusing texts from the results of odd internet searches. In Vlarf Jason Camlot plumbs the canon of Victorian literature, as one would search the internet, to fashion strange, sad, and funny forms and feelings in poetry.

Vlarf pursues expressions of sentiment that may have become unfamiliar, unacceptable, or uncool since the advent of modernism by mining Victorian texts and generic forms with odd inclinations, using techniques that include erasure, bout-rimé, emulation, adaptation, reboot, mimicry, abhorrence, cringe, and love. Erasures of massive volumes of prose by John Stuart Mill and John Ruskin become concise poems of condensed sadness; a reboot of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is told from the perspective of a ten-year-old boy with an imaginary albatross pal; recovered fragments from an apocryphal book of Victorian nonsense verse are pieced together; a Leonard Cohen song about Queen Victoria is offered in a steampunk rendering; and a meditative guinea pig delivers a dramatic monologue in the vein of Robert Browning.

Camlot moves through Victorian literature as a collector in a curiosity shop, seeking the oddest forms of feeling in language to shape them into peculiarly affective poems.

"Look twice to find, in these curio-cabinet stanzas, a 'humble host / of green syllables familiarly / Englished.' Sample flint jelly among 'the lists of things,' where 'The Leaf' becomes a page and 'Root' an etymology. Let Jason Camlot's deft subtraction from Victorian classics yield a world of difference now."

Herbert F. Tucker, author of Epic: Britain's Heroic Muse 1790-1910

"In Vlarf, Jason Camlot mines cultural memories to uncover some of the Victorian delights that first kicked our ecological crisis into high gear. Through kitsch experimentation and gleeful nonsense, his poetry brings historical perspectives in contact with our own messed-up world, evoking a melancholy nostalgia for a joy that's as dangerous as it is eye-opening."

Dennis Denisoff, co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Victorian Literature

Jason Camlot is professor of English and research chair in literature and sound studies at Concordia University in Montreal.

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