Ouliposter-Badge-Plum-300x300As a kind of farewell and wrapup, we’ve been asked to post an exit interview, discussing the Oulipost experience. It will take awhile still to absorb and understand Oulipo, I think, but that’s why I purchased the Oulipo Compendium. That will keep me going forever! And thanks so much to the Found Poetry Review, for pulling this all together! What a ride, as one of my fellow Ouliposters said!

So, what now and what’s next? Herewith:


Oulipost Exit Interview: Oulipost Ends Where the Work Begins

Question 1:

What happened during Oulipost that you didn’t expect? What are the best (or worst) moments for you?

Well, going in, I didn’t know a lot about Oulipo experimental writing, although I’d had a bit of an intro while taking Modern & Contemporary American Poetry with Al Filreis UPenn, through Coursera.

Some of the scariest sounding prompts turned out to be the most fun. And often the ones that sounded really quite straightforward turned out to be anything but.  And I never expected ever to write a poem with zombies in it, much less a zombie sonnet on a day that was not a sonnet prompt. It was Day 9, create a poem from headlines. Zombies just jumped out from the page and off I went. And I found the hardest ones were the ones with selected letters to be used or to be avoided. 

I also enjoyed the discussions with the other Ouliposters and their ideas, which often helped me get started in the mornings.

Question 3:

What does your street look like?

Aha! We encounter Oulipo even in the questions. Ok, I will do Q3 next then about something totally off-track.  My street is a cornucopia of cars and kids cavorting. No, actually it often looks like a parking lot. Mostly townhomes, and a bedroom community for Ottawa.  Everyone has more vehicles than their driveways and single garages will hold. But lovely in spring and fall when the trees, now nearly 20 years old, are either in blossom or in full fall colour.

Question 4:

Who is your spirit Oulipostian?  Portrait of Tristan Tzara I didn’t have one going in, and I am not sure I have one coming out. On occasion, John Beryman, on others Christian Bök, a Canadian poet who wrote Eunoia, which won the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize, which had 5 chapters, each using a single vowel.  Interesting concept, read more about him here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_B%C3%B6k Perhaps also Tristan Tzara, although not an Oulipolian, did create Dadaist poetry.


English: tristan Tzara Español: Tristan Tzara ...

English: tristan Tzara Español: Tristan Tzara pero en Español (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question 5:

What are the top three poems you wrote during this project?

English: Photograph of Parliament Hill, Ottawa...

Ooh, not fair! I’m not sure I can narrow down to three. Day 7’s N+7 poem, Behind Closed Doors on Parliament Hill is one. Strangely enough, Day 19’s sestina poem, Zoo Variations. Of course, thanks are due again to Doug Luman and his wonderful tools, which made this a whole lot easier, and actually do-able in a single day. Probably the last one would be the Patchwork Quilt, In a Vacant Lounge in Canada, I Too sat Dowse and Wept,taking lines from all the poems written over the 30 days, simply because it does revisit some of the best lines from all the poems, but then again, there are the two Antonymy poems from April 22, Buy the Pigeon, Sell Carnivores and A Silence Out of Mid-Summer. Both these have a combination of sensical lines and nonsense. I think overall, I liked the ones that had interesting and startling juxtapositions, and were a bit or a lot outside my usual “coherence.”


A city pigeon

A city pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Question 2:

What questions do you have for your teaspoons? What questions do your teaspoons have for you?

Questions for my teaspoons:



Teaspoons (Photo credit: eltpics)

Why don’t you hold more sugar?

Why is there only one of you in a set of measuring spoons, at least one for wet and another for dry?
Why are you almost always heaping when you are not scant?



Questions my teaspoons have for me: 

Why do you scoop around the slice of stale bread, the clay honeybear and the measuring scoop instead of moving them out of the way first?
Why don’t you use more jam and less oil, since we all have a sweet-tooth too?
Why do you keep us here in the dark when we really want to watch Big Bang Theory?


Teaspoon… (Photo credit: vanherdehaage)

Question 6:

What will you do next? 

Hoping to put together a regular submission plan (and implement it!) and to work on the three chapbooks/collections I have in process, including, now, the Oulipo ones. My title for that so far is Newspaper Clippings. And definitely, definitely doing more Oulipo! 

One of several versions of the painting "...

One of several versions of the painting “The Scream”. The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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      • Write a short poem – part 1 – it need be no more than a few lines about anything.

        Then write – part 2 – simply let the thoughts appear, a sort of free-fall association in relation to part 1.

        The whole thing is an exercise in writing with as little care for ‘rules’ as possible. Write out an initial idea – part 1 – and then surprise yourself with whatever appears from the storeroom that is your memory. The thoughts/ideas/words that make up part 2 are a free expression of what you ‘really’ know about part 1 but had suppressed.

        Carol, I look forward to seeing what you create while experimenting with this exercise…that is if you choose to do so, most importantly, it’s just a bit of fun.

        Post your poem at my blog site in the comment section.

        Thank you,
        Lewis :)

  1. Will give this some thought and start on it tomorrow morning! And sorry… lol should have scrolled down your post a little bit further beyond the poem end!

    • That’s great, Carol. Initially, I hadn’t given too much information about how to write the poem, thanks to you asking for more details, I posted that reply on my blog site :) Thank you for taking part and please don’t feel rushed to write your poem, post it when you have the time.

      • Line Excavations, Archaeologies

        Carol, thank you so much for your wonderful contribution (you definitely ‘captured’ the sense of what I was hoping for) to this little poem exercise. It was so exciting reading through your poem. There are so many smooth flowing combinations of words, my favourite (at the moment) section is –

        “of red stones.
        How they tremble at the clap of thunder,
        huddle together under harsh storm. Each shiver
        a glimpse of glint on rounded shoulder”

        I really do love your poem. I hope that should you attempt to write another one of these poems (at present I do not have a name for this form of poem) that you will be so kind as to share it….please. I would like to explore this form, any ideas that you may have would be most appreciated.

        most grateful,

  2. Lewis, I enjoy collaboration work, and am quite happy to continue exploring this idea. Iit has similarities to the Japanese haibun, what little I know of that form. That is a prose passage that ends with a related haiku, where the haibun explains how the haiku came to be.

  3. Hi Carol,

    Yes, I see what you mean about there being a similarity with Haibun. The more I read your poem the more I am convinced of the ‘worth’ of this form (we still have no name for it.)

    As to the further exploration of this form I suppose it comes down to the continued application of it. The more you practice it, the more you will become used to expressing in that way.

    At the moment, for me, it’s about the intial idea/poem (part 1) and then bringing into expression (part 2) what it is that we know/feel about part 1. Almost as though we have become used to expressing our ideas/feelings in the traditional/learned way (part 1) and then allowing ourselves to truly express what it is that we would like to say in the form of part 2 of the poem (free-fall association), without constriant.

    In your introduction to ‘Line Excavations, Archaeologies’ you wrote – “I took some old orphan lines that have been hanging around a little and used those as part 1 of my 2 parter. Then riffed from that.” Maybe this could be one way of starting these poems – create a family (in the form of the 2 parter poem) thereby giving a home to the ‘orphans.’

    We know what we would like to say/express but are always applying constraints to that expression (even in our poetry), thence yours/mine/everyones ‘orphan lines.’

    Ultimately, with the removal of fear there appears the freedom (courage) of true expression.

    Perhaps we could take another look at some orphan lines and make another attempt at this form of writing. Let me know what you feel about this.

    Lewis :)

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