Tag Archives: Oulipost

Oulipost Exit Interview: Oulipost Ends Where the Work Begins

Question 1:  What happened during Oulipost that you didn’t expect? What are the best (or worst) moments for you?

I rediscovered how much fun writing poetry can be, how almost anything can be rendered poetic, how evocative two randomly selected words can be when put side by side, the way your brain creates connections and connotations, how much meaning and impact can be contained in just one word.

There were moments of self-doubt, when a poem that was meaningful to me didn’t seem to translate to others. And then when others did like something I wrote, I almost felt as if I were being praised for something I didn’t really do, since it was found poetry. But thinking of found poetry as collage, which I do consider a valid art form, helped me get over that insecurity.

Question 3:  What does your street look like?

The block right after the one where the sidewalk ends.

Question 4:  Who is your spirit Oulipostian?

Massimo Soranzio, because he has the coolest name.

Question 5:  What are the top three poems you wrote during this project?

Birds with Fish

A small packet

Untitled (Lescurean Permutation {Plain}

Question 2:What questions do you have for your teaspoons? 

Is your curved depression an invitation for substances to cling to you and never let go?  Is this a metaphor for my own life?

What questions do your teaspoons have for you?

Doesn’t hanging upside down all the time make the blood rush to your head? Or do you like that?

Question 6: What will you do next?

Organize my writing, the various finished and unfinished pieces, start leaving poems and mysterious fragments in public places with a link back here and see if I can finally find my tribe.

Oulipost #30: Patchwork

and how large and liberating a role chance played in all our affairs…

There are other people like me, my DJ, serving a system of objects in space, humbled. A ceremony of another kind, a cautionary serration. Hear a name saying thank you one bite at a time. Animated potential spacecraft singing in birds and multiple twists and unforeseen air in a star, spider/teleconferencing devices.

I was on mirrors eerie, the diminutive aircraft, a gentle scrubbing ebbs foamy planetoid toward whatever dragons understanding crimes and complicated clones may help reveal. It is like watching some sort of magician work tickle out of your muscles — volatile, absolute –and relax.

The car never stops in the sharp sun of an April afternoon launching messages outside.

(I’ll whisper it in your ear).



The prompt:
Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.


Oulipost #29: Canada Dry

And that’s when things got weird

a mistake in wording
fixing the glitch
a surge
sounding the alarm
scrambling this summer
skeleton crew
backed into a corner
vicious waves of
laughter in the air
empty and silent
feeding that paranoia
saying ominous things
(I’ll whisper it in your ear)
Your community thanks you
(Lean in a little closer)
an extra dose of



Cohen, Jodi S. “Pension law sparks retirements: Cuts in benefits and a mistake in the bill have state’s universities facing an exodus.” Chicago Tribune. 29 April 2014: 1.

Huppke, Rex W. “Fearless gun owners scared of people armed with pens.” Chicago Tribune. 29 April 2014: 2.

Acura Pharmaceuticals. Nexafed advertisement. Chicago Tribune. 29 April 2014: 3.

The prompt:
The name of this procedure is taken from the soft drink marketed as “the champagne of ginger ales.” The drink may have bubbles, but it isn’t champagne. In the words of Paul Fournel, who coined the term, a Canada Dry text “has the taste and color of a restriction but does not follow a restriction.” (A musical example is Andrew Bird’s “Fake Palindromes.”) Be creative, and write a poem sourced from your newspaper that sounds like it’s been Oulipo-ed, but hasn’t.


Oulipost #28: Melting Snowball

interpersonal restrictions

comfortable separation

launching messages outside

guilty space







Kim, Eun Kyung. “Seeing clearly: Discovering I had a cataract at 42 was an eye-opening experience.” Chicago Tribune digitalPLUS magazine. 28 April 2014: 9.

Manchir, Michelle. “Payout at ISU spurs protests: Students, staff seek details in president’s $480,000 exit deal.” Chicago Tribune. 28 April 2014:1.

The prompt:
A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter. From your newspaper, select a starting word, and then continue adding words of decreasing length from the same source article or passage. Challenge yourself further by only using words in order as you encounter them in the text.




Oulipost #27: Irrational Sonnet

A small packet

The forest blurred and his mind went quiet
in the sharp sun of an April afternoon,
lifeless in front of the television.

A straight line between one place and the next.

For company the hum of the interstate.
He waves or nods or smiles from time to time
reminding himself not to roll his eyes
his transition a permanent state.

People on their way from one place to the next.

He photographed the rubble and the ghosts
Across 3 miles of barren landscape
that separated him from town.
Sunrise on the porch of his trailer.
Knocks at a door, waving tree branches.


Saslow, Eli. “A veteran’s isolation: One man’s rough transition from war zone camaraderie to a civilian life full of solitude.” Chicago Tribune. 27 April 2014: 23.

Schmich, Mary. “‘Camera man’ finds beauty in Cabrini-Green.” Chicago Tribune. 27 April 2014: 3.

The prompt:
Create a 14-line sonnet sourced from lines from your newspaper that is divided according to the first five digits of the irrational number pi – that is, into stanzas of 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines. As with the preceding sonnet assignment (see April 14) you may interpret “sonnet” as formally or as loosely as you wish.



Oulipost #25: Larding

“There are no whales here to watch,” he said, scanning the empty sea.
Even though I had been around them, struck them and watched them die, now I was watching them ballet, caressing their young. (Imagine what your home would look like without any trees, shrubs, flowers or grass).
“Why did you take me on this terrible, terrible tour of my past?”
Better to linger over these locations for a moment or two as the guest continues a train of thought. Stop the celebrating, avoid the stragglers and return to the rebuilding already in progress. We no longer use pieces of mirror to signal where the whales were from hill to hill.
“Clearly, in the future, we’ll have to get a grip on this and carefully, carefully design the next phase,” he said.
For some patients it could be life-changing. But it won’t matter as much as what is already taking place. Memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Someone to catch the glimpses of its beauty and lack thereof. In close-up. But stick two strangers in a car, and suddenly there’s an intimacy – sometimes comfortable, sometimes not – enforced within its glass-and-steel enclosure.
“Everybody likes the blame the storms, but there are storms every year. Watching them took my breath away. The rising water spilled into the basement of my small fieldstone office perched alongside the stream.”
It can do all that — as long as you believe such a fickle, abstract thing exists. The car never stops. Landmarks are pointed out, drive-by style. There are no question marks in my mind. Gardens that have been carefully tended for years are now at risk of being lost. And there are likely more on the way.
“You see any whales to watch?”



Charles, Jacqueline. “Last of the whalters: St. Vincent is one of the few places in the world where whale harpooning is still allowed. Some cling to the contested tradition, but many would like to see it come to an end.” Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: 15.

Conway, Sean. “Planning helps solve garden water troubles”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Chicago Homes, 5.

Greenstein, Teddy. “Yea or nay, union push spurs change for NCAA”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Sports, 1.

Hine, Chris. “Heat of the momentum: Bickell’s big goal could have series rolling Hawks’ way”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Sports, 7.

Karp, Gregory. “United’s earnings under the weather: Storms, Asia weakness cited for $609M 1st-quarter loss CEO calls ‘disappointing”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Business, 1.

MacVean, Mary. “Early tests in on 2 drugs aimed at preventing migrains: 1st targeted agents must still undergo confirmatory trials”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: 12.

Metz, Nina. “‘My Chicago’ is a promising work in progress”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 1.

Milbert, Neil. “Beating drum for his entries: Rivelli running pair in Land of Lincoln Stakes”. Chicago Tribune.25 April 2014: Sports, 9.

Sullivan, Paul. “Cubs can turn out lights, Wrigley’s party is over”. Chicago Tribune. 25 April 2014: Sports, 1.

The prompt:
Aka “line stretching.” From your newspaper text, pick two sentences. Add a new sentence between the first two; then two sentences in the new intervals that have become available; and continue to add sentences until the passage has attained the length desired. The supplementary sentences must either enrich the existing narrative or create a new narrative continuity.


Oulipost #24: Homosyntaxism

The gun is to
the congregation of violence
strengthened people
intensified bars
pushed in members
hailed victory and
disappointed confiscation.

But it would
a house of worship
in the
guns of restrictions
who have been
to forbid
and relax
with rampages
full of




Dardick, Hal. “Aldermen push value of a ban on plastic bags: Chicago plan would affect large chain stores first, exempt independent shops.” Chicago Tribune. 24 April 2014: 1.

Simon, Richard. “Ga. governor signs ‘guns-everywhere bill’ into law: Rights added to carry arms in airports, bars and churches, defend against attacks.” Chicago Tribune. 24 April 2014: 12.

The prompt:
mosyntaxism is a method of translation that preserves only the syntactic order of the original words. To give a rudimentary example, if N=noun, V=verb and A=adjective, the outline NVA could yield solutions such as “The day turned cold,” “Violets are blue,” “An Oulipian! Be wary!”)

Option 1: Choose a sentence from your newspaper source text and write as many homosyntaxisms as possible based on that same variation.

Option 2: Complete a homosyntaxism of an entire paragraph or article found in your text.

Oulipost #23: Inventory


(You can click on the image above to see it larger in a separate window, if you’d like)

Jessica Wohl. “McDonald’s not loving 1Q results: Sales, profit miss expectations; CEO says improvements are on front burner.” Chicago Tribune. 23 April 2014: Business, 3.

The prompt:
Inventory is a method of analysis and classification that consists of isolating and listing the vocabulary of a pre-existing work according to parts of speech. Choose a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article and “inventory” the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. Bonus points for creative presentation of your final lists.


Author note:
I’m afraid that I did not understand or know what to do with this prompt at all.
So, I used Excel to create lists of the nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in the article. Then I deleted all of the cells that had proper nouns in them, and sorted the noun column alphabetically. This spaced things out in an interesting way, which you can also see or download below. I copied all of the words into Wordle and played around with the various settings to create a word cloud that I think resembles a potato or perhaps a patty.



Download (PDF, 159KB)

Oulipost #22: Antonymy

Everyone’s Sober Aunt

She wasn’t the bad girl,
nor a frowny bad girl anomaly.
Her sensibly unimpressive
obscure defamations were not light,
her mask meek.

But woman, this speech!
A knot!
A foot stripper!
A somberly small wrist dim without leg dust!

She would suppress those ordinary whispers
but refuse a weakness for her “victims”
(this was not you).
She would mutter nothings unlike
“Strangers who you die despite
also exhale a soil
which tastes not of surrender!”
She always thought out
the defamation
which she did not
go there
out the platform to
near here.

“Remove our fingertips from your bones,
tickle out of your muscles,
dig up my feathers out of your skin,
yet a weakness
note of the victim
will never failllll!”
she mumbled after many accords.

Deadening anti-matter
from 90-day-young girls.



Ziezulewicz, Geoff. “Ultimate Warrior shook top rope, stirred up fans.” Chicago Tribune. 22 April 2014: 2.

The prompt:
In Oulipian usage, antonymy means the replacement of a designated element by its opposite. Each word is replaced by its opposite, when one exists (black/white) or by an alternative suggesting antonymy (a/the, and/or, glass/wood).

Original: To be or not to be, that is the question.
Antonymy: To not be and to be: this was an answer.

Select a passage from your newspaper source text to complete this exercise.

Oulipost #21: Confabulation

We can’t allow it to take away from our aggressiveness.
We have to be disciplined.
Our movement wasn’t as good as it normally is.
We have to make quick decisions. We have to go through them.
You could say fatigue. We got lackadaisical. And they capitalized on it.
We’ll be fine.
We can’t put our heads down.
I saw them talking to him.
It makes it a little more gutless. You don’t need to be going after him when he doesn’t even know where he really is.
I’m not happy about that.
We can’t use that as an excuse. But you could see he was tiring a little bit.
He was giving us what he had.
He has actually been doing a really nice job.
Everyone grieves differently.  Obviously, he’s going through a tough time.
I don’t want to talk about that.
Got to give credit where credit is due.
Now we’re in a similar situation.
It’s cliche but it’s what we need to do.
It gets my head spinning. It’s not anything I’m used to.
It’s never been touched.
It gives you a little fire when you see that happen right in front of you.
It is like watching some sort of magician work. 
Her process is so internal, and so finite and so flawless.
They said, ‘This is going to be insane.’
There’s no panic on their side, and there won’t be.
Now it’s public, and you have to sort of quiet up the noise.
It would be nice. It would be super nice. But I wouldn’t want to share the fun.
Just attack.



Teddy Greenstein. “‘A tough time’ for Noah: Grieving loss of mentor, Bulls center struggles in dueling Wizards’ Nene.” Chicago Tribune. 21 April 2014: Sports, 5.

K.C. Johnson. “Stealing Home: Bulls give up the advantage by letting series opener slip away at United Center.” Chicago Tribune. 21 April 2014: Sports, 1.

Colleen Kane. “Stalled offense finds some life: Semien, Danks ignite attack as Sox end 4-game losing streak.” Chicago Tribune. 21 April 2014: Sports, 3.

Chris Kuc. “Getting dirty look: Seabrook draws 3-game suspension; taunting, Bickell hits also anger Blues.”  Chicago Tribune. 21 April 2014: Sports, 1.

Fred Mitchell. “Clutch bunch: Reds’ 2-out hitting something Cubs hope to emulate.” Chicago Tribune. 21 April 2014: Sports, 3.

Yvonne Villarreal . “‘Orphan Black’ star an expert multitasker.” Chicago Trbune. 21 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 3.

The prompt:
Craft a conversation poem using “he said/she said” quotes that you find in newspaper articles.