For National Poetry Month, I usually participate in one or more challenges to write one poem a day for the entire month. This year, I asked to join the Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost Project, and was accepted as a participant.
Oulipo, for those not familiar with the term, stands for short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, founded in 1960 by a group primarily of French writers and mathematicians. From Wikipedia is this explanation of the term (rough translation): “the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo Oulipo writing uses existing forms of constraints, as well as creating new ones.
Over the month of April, we will be using a different constraint each day to create our poems, with all of our source material coming from daily newspapers.
For our first assignment, we have been asked to answer five interview questions. Here goes!
1. What excites you about Oulipost?
The opportunity it offers to push my boundaries. I often work in a rather safe little box. Time to find what is on the other side of the walls!
2. What, if anything, scares you about Oulipost?
Of the 30 constraints we will use, I have used 7 of them before, heard of one other, and am completely mystified by the other 22. I hope I can keep up! Besides that, Found poetry scares me a bit because I am never quite sure whether I can later publish it or not. So I haven’t really tried.
3. Have you written experimental or found poetry before? If so, tell us about it.
I’ve enjoyed working with various constraints for my poems, especially through the prompts provided by the April writing challenges. Although I first encountered found poetry in 2006, in the last year or so I’ve used this technique much more frequently to create centos, for entries in the Geist Erasure Poetry contest and for assignments done as part of my online MOOC course, Modern & Contemporary American Poetry via UPenn. That introduced me to Dada poems, N+7, unoriginal writing, and other chance techniques as well as sound and visual poetry. I enjoy the challenge of working with these constraints. I’ve also managed a couple of good found poems from magazine articles.
4. What newspaper will serve as your source text?
I have set up a new subscription to the Ottawa Citizen beginning April 1st, just for this project.
5. Who’s your spirit Oulipian?
I am not yet familiar with the work of the group members, but I have used Tristan Tzara’s methods as well as Bernadette Mayer’s. I find the work of Caroline Bergvall interesting too, and of course, being Canadian, Christian Bok, who gave us Eunoia. Over the next couple of weeks, I will do some research on Calvino, Le Lionnais, Queneau and Perec, with the idea of choosing one of them as my spirit Oulipian.