Frank Davey’s career as a critic and creative writer has continually explored and pushed the boundaries of literature. His latest poetry collection Bardy Google is another testament to that fact. Through his exploration of the possibilities of literature in the age of cyberspace, Davey trains a particularly keen focus on voice and meaning. He borrows the methods of the flarfist (or perhaps now post-flarfist) collective that mined the Internet, extracted its content and re-contextualized it in the space of a book. Bardy Google, however, is not drenched with the same hilarious and subversive qualities of the flarfists (though both descriptors can apply to his work at times). Rather, the text is grounded in a more serious and intellectual tone.
Each poem corresponds with a specific Google-entered term or phrase. Whatever language surfaces from the search engine is re-contextualized into a prose poem. But like many texts based on harvesting writing from the web, the content is less than exhilarating. Advertisements rub against personal writing, fiction against nonfiction. Though each poem pulls together the available knowledge on a specific topic, I wondered how this language contributes to our understanding of the terms. Bardy Google is framed to explore the question of what are we all searching for, but the book also posits another question: what do we actually know? There’s no definite conclusion here, perhaps because there is none. The book finishes with a poem made up of mostly propositional statements that all start with, “does anybody know…?” But once asked, the book provides no answers to these questions. Conceptually speaking though, the text is a success. The poetry raises interesting questions around how widely different statements can relate or oppose one another via the search engine its title recalls. (Eric Schmaltz)
Frank Davey, 80 pgs, Talonbooks, talonbooks.com, $16.95