No, this isn’t the start of a strange April Fools’ joke. It’s the beginning of a grand experiment! On April 1st, I will join 80+ other poets of all stripes in a month-long project organized by the editors over at the Found Poetry Review. Oulipost, FPR’s 2014 National Poetry Month project, enlists poets to apply Oulipo techniques to text sourced from their daily newspaper.
According to its Wiki entry, Oulipo — Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (or “workshop of potential literature”) — is a group of mostly French-speaking writers and mathematicians that seeks to create works using constrained writing techniques. The group defines “potential literature” as “the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy.” By employing constraints, the group aims to trigger new ideas and inspiration.
So with the idea of trying something new and creating a little creative muscle confusion in my own brain and body, I signed on to become an Ouliposter. My first official act in that capacity? To interview myself. Here are the parts that were fit to print.
Q: WHAT EXCITES YOU ABOUT OULIPOST?
A: I’m excited by the unknown and unexpected. Similar to the way my characters “surprise” me when I’m working on a novel, I’m looking forward to being surprised by my poetic output in response to each Oulipost prompt. I’m also a math geek, so the technical nature and constraints of this project appeal to me.
Q: WHAT, IF ANYTHING, SCARES YOU ABOUT OULIPOST?
A: The steep learning curve for some of the proposed forms and experimental approaches. I love reading and listening to poetry, but I don’t often write it and am a bit rusty. While I appreciate sestinas and sonnets, I’m daunted by the idea of writing them.
Q: HAVE YOU WRITTEN EXPERIMENTAL OR FOUND POETRY BEFORE? IF SO, TELL US ABOUT IT.
A: I’m an experimental poetry rookie (assuming my 7th grade experimentation with rhyming words doesn’t count), and my found poetry life has been limited to a few writing workshop exercises. I’m looking forward to this opportunity to play in the poetry sandbox for a few weeks.
Q: WHAT NEWSPAPER WILL SERVE AS YOUR SOURCE TEXT?
A: I’ll be using Foster’s Daily Democrat out of Dover, NH, a small city about 15 miles from where I live on the New Hampshire seacoast. My husband is also participating in Oulipost, so it could get ugly on the home front as we wrangle for the best parts of the paper each day. Fortunately, we’ll have access to both print and online versions, which should keep bloodshed to a minimum (except on collage days, in which case, may the sharpest scissors win…).
Q: WHO’S YOUR SPIRIT OULIPIAN?
A: I’ve selected Jacques Jouet to be my spirit Oulipian. Unlike Oulipians who can easily be labeled as “a Belgian poet” or “a French mathematician,” Jouet resists simple description. He is a poet, novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, and visual artist (specializing in collage). In addition: his name starts with the letter J; he enjoys cooking; and he was born in October. Me, me, also me. I look forward to sharing my Ouliposting journey with Jacques, even if he doesn’t yet realize we’re in this together.