Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Poetry Stretch - Oulipo

The OULIPO is a form that was created in 1960 by a writer and mathematician. It is designed to examine verse written under strict constraints, of which there are many. Here are just a few that look interesting.
  • S+7: The writer takes a poem already in existence and substitutes each of the poem’s substantive nouns with the noun appearing seven nouns away in the dictionary. This can also be used with verbs.
  • Snowball: A poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer. This form could also start with one word with each line growing by one word.
  • Lipogram: Writing that excludes one or more letters.
You can read more about this form at Wikipedia and The official site is here, but alas, I do not read French. (However, the Google language tools are somewhat helpful.)

Here's the OULIPO I wrote in 2007.
Ode to a Gymnast
So, do you want to play? What kind of OULIPO will you write? Leave a comment about your poem and what constraint form you used, and I'll post the results later this week.


  1. Really interesting mix of maths, logic, order and poetry. But I doubt whether it holds
    haiku essays

  2. No one else has bitten yet? I did decide to try the S+7 method on some nursery rhymes. Thanks for the interesting challenge!

  3. Portrait of Paul Éluard
    by surrealist/dadist Benjamin Péret (origin in French, so this is a translation of a translation taking poetic license with the Oulipo.)

    Portrait of Paul Éluard

    Dark tears fall on the back's of starfish --
    what starfish!
    A vocalist cries out over a layer cake--
    a willow covers the seed's haha.
    The seeds will pass on
    but your cloth will not.
    I have ooze in my poesy
    which will multiply in my marrow.
    Then I'll smile at your star fish--
    that's funny huh

  4. I tried the snowball - very late, but it's not exactly snowball season here lol