Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oulipost Pre-event Interview

To ramp up for the upcoming Oulipost extravaganza (see Its' Official! I'm an Ouliposter), the fine folks at Found Poetry Review asked each of the 74 (!!) participating poets to answer the following five questions.


It promises to be FUN, like a roller coaster ride, both controlled/known and chaotic/unknown at the same time.
  • controlled/known in the rules and constraints that will be applied, as well as in the specification of the source text
  • chaotic/unknown in that I will be just learning about the majority of the oulipo techniques (for example "beautiful in-law'' and "larding"--what are those??) and won't have any idea of the actual text I need to use until the day that the poem is to be created
The sense of community.
We ouliposters will be adrift together on this experiment-boat for the whole month. None of us knows what to expect, which motivates us to connect with one another through social media. We discuss options, fears, our own limitations, issues with technology. It's a unifying experience.
It's liberating.
When engaged in a creative activity, I find it liberating to be unaffected by judgement, whether it be internal or external judgement. And the whole situation of the oulipost project—the rules and constraints of oulipo, the teeny slice of time that will remain for me to write the poem after attending to work, family, volunteer obligations, etc.—all of these conspire to focus my attention on getting the poem out. There's no time to fall prey to the tyranny of judgement, no time to fester over whether a poem is "good" or not. I'll be grateful if I'm able to write anything at all.


That I will fall woefully behind (I believe most of the ouliposters are concerned about this.)


I was a participant in the Pulitzer Remix, Found Poetry Review's 2013 National Poetry Month project. The poems I created came about primarily through remix. Afterwards, I was fortunate enough to find a publisher open to publishing a chapbook of some of those poems.

Remix is my favorite method for creating found poems. With remix, I mix and rearrange phrases and individual words chosen out of a selection of text, as well as create new words that are not in the selected text, but that have been discovered by applying erasure to a word or phrase.

Other than the chapbook, I've written the occasional cento, erasure, collage, and other remix poems.


There is only one newspaper in the county where I live, it's the never-boring Brown County Democrat.

But the Brown County Democrat comes out only once a week, so I'll also be using the The Herald-Times out of Bloomington, Indiana.

Another (somewhat) local paper I'll use is the Indianapolis Star.

And for those times when I want something different, I might go with Wall Street JournalI like the idea of poetry coming out of Wall Street.

[from Found Poetry Review: Some people have spirit animals. Ouliposters have spirit Oulipians.]

It's a tie between two mathematicians:

Claude Berge, because he loved permutations and equations and he loved language and literature. Becausehe said "what I really enjoy is to sketch things with a paper and pencil, and discover patterns and configurations." Because he wrote a mathematical murder mysterya duke killed by one of six (or seven?) ex-loversinvestigated Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, solved by Holmes through graph theory.

 ... and Jacques Bens, because he developed the Irrational Sonnet. I am ecstatic that irrational numbers exist. I delight that a sonnet form is patterned after pi. That Bens coined it "the irrational sonnet" makes me dance a wild jig, right now, as if the other versions were rational. Rationed. Ratioed. Sometimes only a number will do.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's Official! I'm an Ouliposter

April is National Poetry Month (NaPoMo)!! In celebration, I'll be joining 74 other poets across the globe in Found Poetry Review's OULIPOST project. The project requires each poet to create one poem a day by applying Oulipo techniques—basically constraints and rulesto the day's newspaper. (You'll find more about oulipo later on in this post.)

Each day in April, I'll be writing and posting one poem created from text in a local newspaper based on the constraints and rules for that day. Those constraints and rules will be given to me by the Found Poetry Review editors.

Of course, you can check back here for poems that I write. However, if you'd like access to all of the fabulous Oulipost poets:
  • On April 1st, peruse the Oulipost Project page at Found Poetry Review (http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/oulipost/). Poets will be posting links to their poems as they complete them.
  • On twitter, we'll be tweeting with the hashtag #oulipost
  • Some of us will be reposting on Tumblr using the tag oulipost.
And you can get in on the fun, too—become an honorary ouliposter!! I'll be posting the day's constraints and rules, so you can create your own oulipost poem from one of your local newspapers.

So where does the word Oulipo come from?
It’s the shorten version of Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, roughly translated, according to Wikipedia, into "workshop of potential literature." It’s the name of a literary movement started in the 1960s by French poet Raymond Queneau and mathematician Francois Le Lionnais. Poet Mónica de la Torre, in her essay “Into the Maze: OULIPO,” gives two reasons why the Frenchmen banded together:
The concerns of the original members of the Oulipo were, at least, two-fold: on the one hand they wanted to write literature that could not be easily consumed and disposed of, literature that was always in the making. 
Oulipians also wanted to devise a system to guarantee that writers would not run out of innovative formal possibilities. As Queneau wrote in the 1963 essay "Potential Literature," their objective was, "To propose new ‘structures’ to writers, mathematical in nature, or to invent new artificial or mechanical procedures that will contribute to literary activity: props for inspiration as it were, or rather, in a way, aids for creativity."

What are oulipo techniques you ask??
Why, they are poetic techniques that make use of constraints as a way to trigger ideas and get inspiration.

Some of the constraints are mathematically based, like the N+7 formula ('noun' + 7), in which you replace a noun in a poem with the seventh noun that follows it in whatever dictionary you happen to be using.

Other constraints are not mathematically based, such as the rule to make a poem out the headlines of today's newspaper. (For more info, the Oulipo page at Drunken Boat contains a number of essays and other resources.