Ouliposter-Badge-Plum-300x300For 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.



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No-Comfort Zone Week ending October 7, 2012

Today marks the last day of week 4, ModPo. This course continues to be my main focus, and a challenge too. We have now handed in two assignments and studied quite a few Proto-Modern and Modern poets. We’ve looked at Imagists, including Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, eaten plums with William Carlos Williams

English: Passport photograph of American poet ...

and visited In a Station in the Metro with Ezra Pound. We’ve gone to A Supermarket in California with Allen Ginsberg. We’ve taken a look at Marcel Duchamp‘s inverted urinal,

Fountain from Marcel Duchamp

Fountain, and puzzled over his Nude Descending a Staircase.

At the next stop, we paused to read from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein, pondering Water Raining and Malachite, The Long Dress.

Portrait of Gertrude Stein, with American flag...


We stopped awhile to hear her as she recited If I Told Him, then continued on to a mad barroom with the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven. We even attempted creating our own Dadaist poem following Tristan Tzara‘s instruction, before pausing to rest on a sonnet by John Peale Bishop, A Recollection. Check that one out, looking for its hidden and impolite message!

By the way, here are some  Kelly Writers House folks, shown below. Looks like it was an interesting event!

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House...

English: Participants at a Kelly Writers House event honoring Gertrude Stein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next week, we review this week’s assignments before moving along to Ruth Lechlitner and Genevieve Taggard. Then we visit Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and Robert Frost. And quickly along to Richard Wilbur and  X.J. Kennedy. All of these poets are new to me, except of course for Robert Frost. But I am not familiar with the poem we ‘ll study, Mending Wall.  All in all, a busy week coming up!

All photos courtesy Wikipedia where not otherwise stated.