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.

Oulipost #20: Lescurean Permutation [Plain]

Through forest-clenched winters,
along roiling streets and
urban rivers
crimes and
complicated clones
may help

I imagined the
fine stags
tenderly strung
shells and
tiny teeth
charming family
loved years
12,000 ones
more modern pyramids
the great people
in Egypt.

Sources (in order of appearance):
McNamara, Mary. “TV relationships finally get more complex”. Chicago Tribune. 20 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 6.

Steves, Rick. “Europe’s art framed in the quiet moments”. Chicago Tribune. 20 April 2014: Travel, 2.

The prompt:
Select a newspaper article or passage from a newspaper article as your source text. Switch the first noun with the second noun, the third noun with the fourth noun, and so on until you’ve reached the end of your text.

Oulipost #18: Homoconsonantism

Scent sits clean on hymen

and detain the entry
offer it to clean  home
on amber eyes,
and the needs meant
(loathe a month)
anemia of scenic true bliss.
mere algae around
sooth scant use.
tease in region,
and the theory.
(soft honey)
wrap aura
tuck anew
guide the teeth clean
so they —
carotid-clad —
ebbs foamy planetoid
noise aurora
we amoebas —
boatlike aethers —
enthuse atomic lily afield.
they heave aside
eyeing wild beneath coil.
arise upon us ably


Monte Morin.”Scientists clone human embryonic stem cells from 2 adults”. Chicago Tribune. 18 April 2014: 15.

The prompt:
Choose a sentence or short passage from your newspaper to complete a homoconsonantism. In this form, the sequence of consonants in a source text is kept, while all its vowels are replaced. For example:
ORIGINAL: To be or not to be: that is the question.
CONSONANTS ONLY: T b r n t t b t t s t h q s t n
FINAL PRODUCT: At burnt tibia: it heats the aqueous tone.


The passage I chose: “In addition, the entire effort to clone human embryos and then dismantle them in the name of science troubles some people on moral grounds.
The scientists in Oregon and the authors of the new report acknowledged that the clones they created could develop into babies if implanted in surrogate wombs. But like others in the stem cell field, they have said reproductive cloning would be unethical and irresponsible.”

Oulipost #16: Chimera

Don’t share to your military.
Don’t wave aircraft when leaning in tank.
Don’t decipher
(so-called and unique).
And never read
or nod
your airplane
in Warthog.

Those appearances read
(looked on)
a ferocity of
“10 language-driven A-10 Thunderbolts”
that an Air Force
in red-eyed equivalent
recently was nodding
to rural grunts.

Flying year,
an old-fashioned enemy,
said the range
(a career),
a Southern Gothic Cold War
and Iraq online.
Afghanistan to be —
the Pentagon of Communist fleet cuts
should know —
almost as replete
as the defense spending itself.

But the aircraft teach
(at once)
subtlest and dynamic
since billions are over
as few years
of the Defense Department
in November 2012
and as
Air Force
the diminutive aircraft.

Joint Strike Fighter’s
“close air support”
second-floor divestitures
dreaming over their friends
for military decision of
Air Force Chief of
Staff Gen. Mark Welsh
by Senate
Armed Services
as well as
on choices or
by A-10s.  

an aircraft of
340,000 history in aviation,
considers to have studied the airplane to ground,
putting out to study
exactly what its pilots build
and look
a friend to such foes.

Used on
1,700 eyes
from A-10s,
and lives,
the Iraq Afghanistan —
in emotional way —
tries a plane of
10 young air support platforms
that would
be installed.

Among them:
have A-10 from Sen.
Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.,
looking illegally,
other news conferences
to happen
and leave small Sen.
John McCain, R-Arizs
to the A-10

Are hearings,
or happening
them to grow your A-10s,
eating your reviews or
eating your A-10
are also
asked upon.

On aircraft, the planet,
a local Army Gen.
Martin Dempsey shrugged
the chairman
had asked

But its Joint Chiefs of Staff
was quickly considered
with Air Force
officials of both
defense cuts
and choice
A-10 fleet.

“These is late budget pictures,”
said one
choice on the choices.
“How can such Air
Force Secretary Deborah Lee
James use committees
spur the Welsh?”

“They explained to be read
17-year Air Forces?”
“a full-spectrum fight”
“These missions should say
back to air support.”

The airplane also
focused up
an air support
and things for A-10
means: to ask the way
on platforms who compete
the lovely comments
and said Air
to like air support of aircraft
on their F-35

The prompt:
“The chimera of Homeric legend – lion’s head, goat’s body, treacherous serpent’s tail – has a less forbidding Oulipian counterpart. It is engendered as follows. Having chosen a newspaper article or other text for treatment, remove its nouns, verbs and adjectives. Replace the nouns with those taken in order from a different work, the verbs with those from a second work, the adjectives with those from a third.

Base article:
Simon Denye. “Chinese officials warned of ‘10 forbidden behaviors’”. Chicago Tribune. 16 April 2014: 15.

Noun substitution article:
Christian Davenport. ” Plan to scrap Warthog fleet hits resistance: Supporters fight to save ‘great old friend’ as Pentagon looks to make spending cuts”. Chicago Tribune . 16 April 2014: 16.

Verb substitution article:
Christopher Borrelli. ” The future is (almost) now: Why sci-fi has rooted itself in technology and concerns of the short term, rather than the far-flung”.  Chicago Tribune . 16 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 4.

Adjective substitution article:
Chris Jones.  “Cicadas buzz within this Southern Gothic story”. Chicago Tribune. 16 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 5.

Author’s note: Man, English grammar is confusing.

Oulipost #17: Haikuisation

Little Beads of Grit

tiny plastic particles
a gentle scrubbing
in rivers and lakes
slip through sewage system filters
particles so small
fish, other wildlife
absorb toxic chemicals
mistake them for food

 Source: Michelle Manchir and Taylor Goldenstein. “State targets tiny beads: Skin cleanser ingredient poses ecological risks”. Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2014: 1.


Mount Thorium

boat slips on river
gauze soaked radioactive
sandy leftovers

Source: Michael Hawthorne. “Just off Mag Mile sits city’s toxic past: Radioactive waste from early 1900s dogs Streeterville”. Chicago Tribune. 17 April 2014: 1.


The prompt:
The haiku is a Japanese poetic form whose most obvious feature is the division of its 17 syllables into lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. Haikuisation has sometimes been used by Oulipians to indicate the reduction of verses of normal length to lines of haiku-like brevity. Select three sentences from a single newspaper article and “haiku” them.

Author note: I handled this prompt two different ways. For the first, I reduced each of  the three sentences I selected into a separate haiku. For the second, I reduced each of the three selected sentences into a line in one haiku. I think the second method was more successful overall, but had a hard time doing this with my first article without eliminating the serious environmental issues it concerned.

In general I’ve tended towards lighter articles as my sources this month, as these techniques feel too playful to apply to more serious articles.  Just my bias, I’m sure, as I’ve seen my fellow Ouliposters use these techniques to create profound poems from heavy subjects. But in my hands, the results just seem to be disrespectfully absurd.

Oulipost #15: Prisoner’s Constraint

Remains in Camera

A man in our arm.

We are in a mosaic,
a new us.
We service in scenes —
a user in me, over wise.
We wave our incense  in error.
Our Zen is over,
In memories, a room.
Cousins on Mass in sermon service.
I was no communion.
Our wine: We were communion.
We were None.

We’re in movies,
an occasion,
we’re a reason in common,
worse, so mean.

No I in a room.
Come as I came.
Sworn in swear,
on our mission as a success.
Never so in common.

I was on mirrors eerie.
Consciousness science versus neuroscience.
Mere viewers
examine sense over course,
arm in never.



Galanes, Philip. “Power Players: Nancy Pelosi and Julia Louis-Dreyfus discuss politics, celebrity and women at the top”. Chicago Tribune, digitalPLUS magazine. 15 April 2014: 3.

Huppke, Rex W. “New phrase that’s bound to pay in Age of Selfies”. Chicago Tribune. 15 April 2014: 2

Zeitchik, Steven. “Thinking outside the brain: ‘Transcendence’ has major processing power behind storyline about artificial intelligence”.  Chicago Tribune. 15 April 2014: Arts + Entertainment, 1.

The prompt:
Imagine a prisoner whose supply of paper is restricted. To put it to fullest use, he will maximize his space by avoiding any letter extending above or below the line (b, d,f,g,h,j,k,l,p,q,t and y) and use only a,c,e,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,x and z. Compose a poem using only words that can be made from these letters AND which you source from your newspaper text.

Oulipost #14: Column Inches


3 Workplace Future Presence April 26,
Selling all culture On pedestal Fairfax, Iowa
Walls @ www.wearsgravitas.com
Original Coke PowerPoints/Screens NO FORM (Large),
WWII Armed Companies Spider/Teleconferencing
Devices (Large), Yard Luxury, Metaphor/Office Building
Robot Facial Cues, Classic/Vintage Enthusiast/Gender/
User Designs, Hanging Person Brainstorming Walls,
Sensors, Human Sewn Skype Cues, Experience Related,
Facility Related Cues, Interaction & Image Design,
Pets, Workers, Experiences, Fidelity, Van Briggle,
Roseville, Strangeness Modern, Painted Counterpart,
Vintage Distances and Hallways, Meetings, Talent
Vacuum, Barnster Software, Attempt, & Indian
Colleague Telecomm.



Huppke, Rex W. “I, robot employee: New ‘telepresence robots’ could help us telecommute more efficiently, and it could happen sooner than you think”. Chicago Tribune. 14 April 2014: Business, 2.

Merchandise classifieds. Chicago Tribune. 14 April 2014: Business, 8.

The prompt:
Refer to the advertising section or the classifieds in your source newspaper. Create a poem by replacing all of the nouns in your chosen ad segment or classified listing with nouns from one article in the same newspaper. You may use multiple ads/classifieds, presented in the order of your choosing.

Oulipost #13: Epithalamium


in pain, a test.
take it.

training in a granite rink,
cancer eaten.

start engineering a piece —
entire areas
in green springs.

an age


get near —

it’s air in a star.
see it.



Reynolds, Jessica. “In sickness and in health: Grim diagnosis delayed wedding but strengthened a bond”. Chicago Tribune. 13 April 2014: Life + Style, 6.

Weigel, Jenniffer. “A dress to remember:WWII vet’s bridal gown indelibly linked to her wartime experience”. Chicago Tribune. 13 April 2014: Life + Style, 7.

The prompt:
An Oulipian epithalamium, or marriage song, is one composed exclusively with the letters of the names of bride and groom (bride and bride, groom and groom, etc). Visit the engagement or wedding announcements section of your newspaper and select a couple. Write a poem using only words that can be made with the letters in their name. You may choose to use first names only if you prefer anonymity or full names if you’re desperate for more letters.