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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Ouliposter-Badge-Blue-300x300Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.

Sounds simple enough, till you try to distill 29 days of Oulipo into a single piece. Well, it’s a draft, as always, and rather fun to revisit the various ideas and images that inspired me or drove me crazy over the past month. I will miss the back-and-forth dialogue with fellow Ouliposters, but I received my Oulipo Compendium yesterday in the mail, all the way from Gloucester in the UK, so I’m looking forward to more of this, without the newspaper constraint. Hope you’ve enjoyed the poems. For more patchworks, please visit the Oulipost blog here: http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/oulipost-30-patchwork-quilt/





Winter, mid snowman. City parks bare, a soundscape of static and feedback.
This boggy tip of Newfoundland’s northern landscape, sullen winds hang low,
a cloud of irritation and icy Arctic sky send shivers through indigenous
eyes-locked people. Diamonds locked earth deep beneath limestone fissures,
ET dumped in a hole in Alamagordo. Hogs Back Falls aren’t behavioural.


Hog's Back Falls

Hog’s Back Falls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cheesemakers experimenting.Latest gastronomical experiment: crickets.
A bad-police-car idea to the letter. Check germ level. Net expert levels set.
The diaper had a lot to say, the little packet of cheese too. Saint’s jawbone,
several teeth, the finest strained carrots the size of garbage can lids—
the martyr’s blood liquifies. All assemble into a gelatinous creature,
a Frankenstein’s monster that never comes to life.

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...All puffball poke written in weird.
Everyone is guilty of something.
Lest we forget, it’s all about the tulips.

Tall chaw-down mothers run up, up, up, up, Stones-style, bruises,
bumps and beers, along the northern peak outside Belfast,
in shades of moral greys and déjà vu, cinctured with peanut.
Armies win wars, women, and even ice cream in various versions.
Good food and dog excrement blended up together.

Buy pigeons, sell carnivores. They’re going to give us ponchos.
We are on the cusp of the gaffe sizzle of Ottawa, mope-up laws of
fissure-written autobiography, further perfection of extreme evil
in 35 cries and as one dance.

Cigarette lighters mask the toothbrush lumber. Backyards have gone barren.
Inuit seals hunt zombie MPs. Most hunt members of the rodent species,
spring-loaded impalas, barcode wobbly-legged zebras.
Chickens search for grubs through cow pats.  Aimless now; it was aimless then.
Savannah scrubland trees never bend to hear a river, ancient wisdom
taught them music in the soil. Dust of a life cannot kill the crocus.
We cannot remain the seed. If an ash tree falls in your forest, it falls on you.

 The conflicted emotions, the shell-shock job of simply loving someone who dies.
To die, the agonizing job of suicides. Death isn’t inside-out water sieves or

sand dunes, the subsurface shock factor, depressed friend gone to
the dark side: a long suicide attempt involving pills and knives and bleach.
All puny sorrows nuanced; the subsequent overshadowed, insignificant.

Puppet dinosaurs, tiny sweating puppet people and sprawl of drunken louts
know when to take this step. All the heavy stuff happens in music.
It is all the breath that knows practising three hours a day at too steep
an angle to learn more about swooping can rob you of your remnants.
The clinical madness of the occult debris affects 80% of beachcombers,
silliness from trying to make the status quo look rational.

 I tried to come in with a few more lingos. I tried to come in with a smile.

CAS, April 30, 2014


Portrait of Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody:...

Portrait of Buffalo Bob Smith and Howdy Doody: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)


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Ouliposter-Badge-Plum-300x300The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes.”)  Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.


English: Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

English: Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, so what to make of that? Of course, there is a restriction right off: sourcing text from the newspaper. That at once makes it at very least a found poem. I decided to simply go with that, taking lines from the paper that appealed to me, and assembling them more or less in the order found, but I did not maintain that as a constraint at all, since I went back and forth between articles to choose my lines. Here and there I added a word or words that were not from the source, but which I knew were somewhere in the paper. I changed one tense from past to present. This is also more or less a remix. Read my fellow Ouliposters here: http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/blog/oulipost-29-canada-dry/

All the Heavy Stuff   

A little midnight car surfing
through those Rocky Mountains at night
forty years on the road, hard miles and
calloused fingertips, Canadian-tough:
a police car bad idea to the letter.

A backhoe shovel plunges into the desert:
14 dump trucks loaded with Atari, ET
dumped in a hole in Alamagordo.

All the heavy stuff happens in the music,
every single detail pays homage
to Robert Johnson and Hank Williams.
combine the two—
That’s rock ‘n’ roll.

CAS, April 29, 2014


Spears, Tom, Car surfers and spectators ticketed in Gatineau, Ottawa Citizen, print edition, April 29, 2014 (C3)   

Robb, Peter, Memories of Canada, Ottawa Citizen, print edition, April 29, 2014 (C5)   

Pileci, Vito, Pop culture fan unearths cache of Atari games, Ottawa Citizen, print edition, April 29, 2014 (C3)







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Ouliposter-Badge-Plum-300x300A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter. From your newspaper, select a starting word, and then continue adding words of decreasing length from the same source article or passage. Challenge yourself further by only using words in order as you encounter them in the text.


I was sufficiently challenged by just finding the words that led down to a single character, and took liberties with that, as my choices were a or I, and neither worked well, so I resorted to numbers, and in at least one case stole it from a longer one.


Once I had my source text, I removed all extraneous characters and spaces so I could run it through a tool that sorted by word length. It was getting confused by the commas and quotation marks.  I then reviewed the list and calculated the letter counts for each group.


Here are my resulting snowballs, three of them, each beginning with a 13-letter word:









Jellyfish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jellyfish Float





Underwater Rainbow.

Underwater Rainbow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diving Into the Veins




CAS, April 28, 2014


 Spears, Tom, Finding Earth’s huge water reservoir, Ottawa Citizen print edition, April 28, 2014 (B3)


Spears, Tom, Swimming “through the veins of Mother Earth”, Ottawa Citizen print edition, April 28, 2014 (B3)


 Neergaard, Lauran, Unique floating lab showcases ‘aliens of the sea’, Ottawa Citizen, April 28, 2014 (A6)




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