I joined a … movement? challenge? adventure? for the April 2014 National Poetry Month. Oulipost is the National Poetry Month project of the Found Poetry Review — writers who signed on for it will post a daily experimental poem, using the daily paper as a source text, and using the daily Oulipian prompts to provide the constraints.
Usually April sneaks up on me and somewhere towards the end I realize that poets all over the US are engaging in marvelous public displays of poetic derring-do. And then it is over. This year, it will be the third common poetic adventure for me. (Common as in communal, shared; not as in “ordinary”). I posted almost daily in January, for the Small Stones challenge, and in February for National Haiku Month. My haiku project was interrupted by an interstate move, and I am still working my way up to 28 haikus.
Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) is a group founded by French writers and mathematicians seeking experimental approaches to writing using constrained writing techniques. Constraint is nothing new. Traditional formal poetry is constrained by form: stanza, meter, rhyme, and (less obviously), content. But Oulipo came up with new constraints, enough for a book to be compiled that lays them out in detail (the Oulipo Compendium).
First assignment: the interview questions.
1. WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT OULIPOST?
I am excited about what I might learn and discover — writing experimental poetry is almost entirely new territory for me. What I like in the experimental poetry I have read is the unexpected play of words — words that might never have been put together any other way reveal sudden and unexpected associations, friendships, alliances.
I have just moved to the Phoenix area, and the mainstream newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is new to me, but I hope to have unexpected delight in deconstructing its (reputedly) conservative pages.
2. WHAT, IF ANYTHING, SCARES YOU ABOUT OULIPOST?
Being forced by a constraint to write something really, really bad or even (gasp) inappropriate.
[sidebar] One of the interesting things I have learned in working as a teacher is that most kids now think “inappropriate” is a synonym for “bad” or “dirty” instead of something that is just out of its own context.
3. HAVE YOU WRITTEN EXPERIMENTAL OR FOUND POETRY BEFORE? IF SO, TELL US ABOUT IT.
I only dabbled a bit, during Coursera/UPenn’s course in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo). One of the assignments was to create a Mesostic, using the source text of our choice, and then write an essay on it.
4. WHAT NEWSPAPER WILL SERVE AS YOUR SOURCE TEXT?
5. WHO’S YOUR SPIRIT OULIPIAN?
Ummmm….. hmmmm….. errrr…..
Well. Using a minimalist approach to research, I have selected Michèle Métail, the first woman to join the Oulipo group. I like her inventions — the 10×15 rectangle of a poem really appeals to me, and I like the poems she wrote using it.