Poem Tryouts: Let’s Oulipo

01 Jul

10:07 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to the sound of my laptop overheating

Hello. I’m a little late, this time because I had to wait for enough functioning brain cells to gather in one mass. Today, I want us to oulipo [Didn’t know it was a verb, did you? During my month long romp with oulipian forms during National Poetry Month, several of us delighted in using the word oulipo in every way we could.].

‘Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of verse written under a system of structural constraints’.

Several of you have played with a couple of the more well-known forms, such as the Snowball and N+7. If you know and like an Oulipo form, feel free to go with that, but if you want to hurl yourself into the unknown, I’m giving you the link to April. That gets you to April 30 and you can scroll back through the month looking at each prompt. For once, you will even have an example poem.

Oulipo is a type of found poetry. My source, during April, was the newspaper. You may use any written material you wish. Some of the forms lend themselves better to specific types of writing. You will need to play. You may also need to adapt.

For those who don’t have time to scroll through thirty days [!], I am giving you links to my favourites and you can choose from among those — or do more than one. It’s addictive.

1] Lipogram: Not easy, but great fun. Ended up one of my favourites and one I remember.

2] Definitional: This was the first where I strayed from the prompt and redefined the form for myself.

3] Univocalism: Fun. I liked this constraint.

4] Never thought I’d be saying this — Sonnet: I went from despair to euphoria on this one. I chose the ultra-modern form, once I knew it existed and loved writing the poem. You can try this, or one of the classic sonnet forms.

5] And, the Irrational Sonnet: Much more sonnet like but with stanza breaks that I found work better for me, than the traditional. I thoroughly enjoyed working this.

6] Lescurean Permutations: This one tickled me, possibly because I had good source material.

When you visit April, you will find the prompts, a brief comment or two, and my poem in response. All words are from another source. People approach the source material differently. Some cherry pick words, but that doesn’t work for me. I collect phrases and sometimes split them, if they are long. Of course, remove words that don’t work; change tenses and point of view and gender, for consistency; and place line breaks where the poem needs them.  PLAY.

I shall see you next Tuesday, not for the postponed prompt on sleeping/dreaming poets [I like the collection I have sitting on my other computer, so that’s waiting until post-summer, now.] Tuesday will be an unknown. Well, yes, I know.

Happy writing, all.

P.S. Check Wikipedia for some history, if you wish.


Posted by on 01/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


Tags: , , , ,

22 responses to “Poem Tryouts: Let’s Oulipo

    • margo roby

      01/07/2014 at 12:39 pm

      Your being so quick is going to freak people out… heh heh heh.

      • Misky

        01/07/2014 at 12:54 pm

        We all had head starts knowing what’s up from your schedule. 😉

  1. b_young

    01/07/2014 at 1:57 pm


    Okay, got that out of my system. T’ain’t much.

    • margo roby

      01/07/2014 at 2:07 pm

      It’s summer. We’re happy if the brain puts two words together, right?!

  2. Yousei Hime

    02/07/2014 at 9:04 am

    Ugh. It was sooo hard. (whiny rabbit hopping by)

    • margo roby

      02/07/2014 at 9:08 am

      I have a good recipe for rabbit stew, you know.

      I should have told everyone not to worry about results. I had a couple where all I could post were the rough rough drafts.

      Let me see, I’ll need small onions, cinnamon…

      • Yousei Hime

        02/07/2014 at 9:49 am

        O_O ***rabbit dust on the horizon***

  3. Bastet

    02/07/2014 at 10:48 am

    This looks ao interesting, would you mind if I reblogged your post?

  4. Bastet

    02/07/2014 at 10:57 am

    Reblogged this on Bastet and Sekhmet's Library and commented:
    Going through my reader today I read an interesting poem written by Yousei Hime … which led me to this fantastic post! Here you’ll find some real challenges … take a look, Iìm certainly willing to try this!

    • margo roby

      03/07/2014 at 1:12 pm

      Much obliged!

      • Bastet

        03/07/2014 at 2:56 pm

        Anytime … now I hope to find time to try some of these!

  5. Carol Carlisle

    02/07/2014 at 1:20 pm

    Margo, I didn’t go for poetry yesterday but a frog story showed up I hope you enjoy.

    • margo roby

      03/07/2014 at 1:13 pm

      You’re a wild woman, Carol. I’m on my way over.

  6. Hannah Gosselin

    03/07/2014 at 9:19 pm

    Hi, Margo! I hope your laptop has chilled out mine was doing that a while back. I’m struggling to find some semblance of routine for writing. Daytime hasn’t allowed me to turn on the machine early enough and then by the time the kids go to bed I’m either wiped out or wanting to totally veg-out! Just a lil’ wonking and no poem…apologies…I’ll pick up the slack next week. :/

    • margo roby

      08/07/2014 at 8:47 am

      Hello there. I read this when you wrote it, made a mental note to replay… and you see where that got me. However, I just stumbled over you, so to speak. You wonk all you want. I know exactly what you mean. With all the ‘mom stuff’ I don’t have a flicker of a poem.


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