The Oulipost Exit Interview

Sad, in some ways, that April has come to a close and with it the Oulipost challenge.  It’s been a challenge, indeed, but a great deal of fun along the way, thanks to all the companions with whom I’ve shared the road.  On to the exit interview.

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

I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did, nor did I expect to take myself as seriously as I did.  The former worked in my favor, the latter not so much.  My best moments were those in which I finished a challenge and wanted to share the result with my husband because I was proud of what I had accomplished (not as frequent as I might have hoped, but it was sweet when it did occur.)  The very worst moment was when I accidentally erased my finished Chimera and lost it completely as I fumbled to retrieve and post it.  For the sheer difficulty of a challenge, the Sestina, where I started off on the wrong foot and never got back onto solid ground until about 10:30 PM, after many hours of struggle to get something/anything down on paper.

Question 3. What does your street look like?

I live on a four-house suburban cul-de-sac.  It’s not exciting in the least, although I do have deer, rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels and a large red fox who visit my back yard on a regular basis because we homeowners keep eating away at their natural habitat here in southeastern PA.

Question 4. Who is your spirit Oulipostian?

I started out the month with Georges Perec and his oh-so-Parisian black cat, but then moved on to Harry Mathews, when I purchased a used copy of the “Oulipo Compendium” on Amazon and, upon its arrival, was delighted to find it signed by one of the authors. By the end of April, my spirit Oulipostians were all the members of the Oulihive, who encouraged me, inspired me, and made me smile along the way.  A special shout-out to my virtual Breakfast Club, the early risers, with whom I shared coffee/tea and companionship, Amanda, Carol, Margo – and to Doug Luman, whose tools saved the day over and over again through this month of challenge and fun!

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

In my judgment of my own attempts, shorter is better, so I choose my untitled haikuisation poems; Excellence, my univocalism poem; and Real Art, my melting snowball.

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

Why do you insist on being called “tea”spoons when I use you mainly for dairy products, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese and the like?

Their question for me: Tea without sugar, without cream, without lemon – really?

Question 5. What will you do next?

Breathe. Read many more of the poems this incredible group produced last month.  Write!  Practice writing, learn more about writing, keep writing.  Wait (somewhat impatiently) for next April.


Oulipost #30: Patchwork Quilt

It’s with a touch of sadness that I give you today’s final challenge: “Conclude the project by writing a poem that incorporates words and lines from all of your past 29 poems.”

In reviewing my poems from the month of April, I found that there was an ongoing metapoetic theme.  I spent some time writing about writing, sharing some of my hopes and fears along the way.  Thanks to everyone for sharing the poetry, the encouragement and the fun with me on this journey. The title of my final poem is a headline from the 04/30/14 New York Times.

A Marathon Performance (Aches, Too)

Waiting for the project’s midnight mountain to begin

A time of soul-searching, not cynicism.
“You have to have an open mind,” he said.
A voice remains we never use,
a medium for transmission.
The whole straitjacket –
crazier, conspicuous – posing…

Fallen deeply and hopelessly,
in a hole with no way out.
Outrage and transgressions.
In the anxious smiles of others,
an invitation to loss.
The invisible backbone did not show.

But here was the inappropriate verb –
continuing evolution in the wilderness,
some crackle of resistance.
Arise, spar, shine, brazen heirs!
A brighter prognosis tweaks the mash-up.
Concoct a sassy creature.

(The 17th of Interesting)

I slipped and slid and tiptoed back.
He, she, him, her – each the same.
Sweet center between them.
Secret power, a full cup,
inspired byzantine statements.
The stars remain aligned.

…and that’s how this all started.

Oulipost #29: Canada Dry

Today’s Challenge: “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.”

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that it took me forever to think this challenge through, only to determine that the only constraint is the use of the newspaper; beyond that, there is no constraint.  So I selected appealing words and phrases at random, all from Section D, “Science Times” in the 04/29/14 edition of The New York Times and arranged them in a bit of a snowball/melting snowball (using both individual words and phrases with spaces as “letters”)  that tries to sum up my experience in Oulipost this April.

Mistaken Impression

Not safe!
a risky method
Powerful questions,
near panic,
At our peril,
ominous results.


Not for the timid
hapless bystanders,
limited as some were.

Interconnected series –
both savior and menace –
stunningly successful.

Continuing evolution
in this wilderness-
safe and feasible.


To experiment =
consequences =
happy ahhhs.

Dissecting potential quandary –
Unknown beauty, acute edge.

Oulipost #28: Melting Snowball

Today’s challenge:”A text in which each word has one letter less than the preceding one, and the last word only one letter.”

Sometimes I hope that I am creating some real art, somewhere in the midst of all these challenges, so in honor of that:

Real Art

Characterization –


Sources from The New York Times 04/28/14. Kennedy, Randy. “Museum Draws Donatello From Italy,”  pp. C1, C6.  Kakutani, Michiko. “Two Brothers in the Icy Grip of Midlife,” pp. C1 and C4. Oestrich, James R. “A Conductor, Rehired, Now Must Rebuild,” pp. C1 and C6.  Parker, Laura. “A Gaming Company Devoted to Narrative Tackles ‘Thrones,'” pp. C1 and C2.  Healy, Patrick. “Hoping to End a Dubious Streak,” pp. C1 and C2.

Oulipost #26: Beautiful Outlaw (Belle Absente)

Today’s challenge: “The outlaw in question is the name of the person (or subject) to whom the poem is addressed. Each line of the poem includes all the letters of the alphabet except for the letter appearing in the dedicated name at the position corresponding to that of the line: when writing a poem to Eva, the first line will contain all letters except E, the second all letters except V, and the third all letters except A.

Choose someone mentioned in your newspaper to whom to address your poem. Compose a beautiful outlaw poem following the procedure outlined above and using words sourced from your newspaper text.”

In reading the 04/26/14 New York Times, I felt compelled to select the name Maren to honor a sixteen-year-old stabbing victim who was killed in her high school on the day of her junior prom. I selected words from articles and letters to the enter that were on the topic of education, including the article about Maren’s Death. It should be noted that I was unable to find a word containing the letter “z” that did not also include the letter “e” – thus, there is no “z” word in the fourth sentence.

For Maren

In their high quality tuxedos and dresses, they find no way to apologize for the stabbing, just an attacker and his raw violence.

Network: the hopes of dozens of friends, vigil instituted by students to extend the requirement of justice to this victim.

Six dejected student witnesses saw no hospital equipment, no investigation, just the knife that stabbed the dying Ms. Sanchez.

An invitation to loss and mourning: Finding no quick lawsuit fix, a majority of officials campaign in opposition to stabbing in schools.

A prom drama: who will criticize, who will seek quick justice, who will tax the system, who will advocate for this beautiful girl?

Sources: Schweber, Nate & Schwirtz, Michael. “Girl Fatally Stabbed at School in Connecticut on Day of Prom,” pp. A1 and A17. Hurdle, Jon.”Shortfall May Force More Cuts at Philadelphia Schools,” p. A13. Rich, Motoko. “Obama Administration Plans New Rules to Grade Teacher Training Programs,” p. A12. Rich, Motoko. “A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools,” p. A1 and A14. I also used selected letters to the editor concerning education policy on page A18.

Oulipost #20 Lescurean Permutation (Roussellian)

Today’s original challenge, the Lescurean Permutation (Plain): “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.” Several variations were suggested including the Roussellian Permutation, which worked best with my text. That variation: “ROUSSELLIAN PERMUTATION: The 1st noun changes place with the last, the 2nd with the next to last, etc.”

The World of the End as We Know It

On this breakdown, Kingsnorth was silent.

It was the final size of machine,
an outdoor human
run by Dark Ritual Festival,
loose others of ecologically minded writers and artists, and
he was standing with several dozen networks,
waiting for the project’s midnight mountain to begin…

The “Festival Uncivilization,” as he sometimes puts it,
has grown to such a night that an occasion is


(Source: 04/20/14 The New York Times Magazine, p.30. Smith, Daniel. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It…And He Feels Fine.”)

Oulipost #18 Homoconsonantism

Today’s challenge: “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: As burnt tibia: it heats the aqueous tone.

A Shiny Pop Song

Man leader
Woe me now.

Why snit?

they vie, shun, yap.

Original Text: “I’m an older woman who’s not going to have a shiny pop song,” from The New York Times, 04/18/14, p. C30. Itzkoff, Dave. “Sometimes a Bad Birthday Gift Has Its Uses.”

Oulipost #12 Sonnet

Today’s challenge: “Write a sonnet sourced from lines found in newspaper articles. You may choose your own sonnet type and should feel free to be creative with the rules. One known Oulipo variation is “sonnets of variable length,” in which one must compose a sonnet in which the lines are either as short as possible or as long as possible.”

I ended up using iambic tetrameter for my sonnnet, although I’m also adding a quatrain in iambic pentameter as a bonus poem today.

I want to write about the egg,
the best spring wine you never heard
a fish that’s got a scar on it
all failed to win the public’s taste

It all depends on where you work
the new boutique hotel you have
and concert venue all in one
when it went on a spending spree

My father left when I was young
the thing behind the steering wheel
a roller coaster ride for Greece
event took place six years ago

And ending in an icy blaze,
I slipped and slid and tiptoed back.

Aesthetic catnip for creative types
the headlight eyes are focused and intense
a way to put these books into the trash
with titles that I’ll never read again.

Sources: 04/12/14 Wall Street Journal Section D: Off Duty Williams, Gisela.”Athens;”
Ellwood, Mark. “The Island of Culinary Delights;” Taylor, Lindsey. “Faking it Big;” Hsu, Michael. “Elegant Ways to Hide an iPhone Cable on a Nightstand and How to Declutter Your E-Book Library;” Mistry, Meenal. “Here Comes the White Lace Maxi;” Neil, Dan. “Volvo XC60, Sweden’s Winter Soldier;” Ruhlman, Michael, “Master the Egg…”

Oulipost #11: Univocalism

Today’s challenge:  “A univocalic text is one written with a single vowel. It is consequently a lipogram in all the other vowels. If he had been univocally minded, Hamlet might have exclaimed, “Be? Never be? Perplexed quest: seek the secret!” All words used must be sourced from your newspaper.”


They, themselves

sweet center between them
every need, every end
even better there

new verses, meters, speech
ever present there

My source was The New York Times p. 22. Pareles, Jon, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Welcomes Its Newest Members.”

Oulipost #10: Snowball

Today’s Challenge: “This procedure requires the first word of a text to have only one letter, the second two, the third three, and so on as far as resourcefulness and inspiration allow. The first word of a snowball is normally a vowel: in English, a I or O.

From your newspaper, select a starting vowel and then continue adding words of increasing length from the same source article or passage. Challenge yourself further by only using words in order as you encounter them in the text.”  

Full disclosure – I didn’t remember the final challenge here, so I selected all my words from the front page of the Arts section of the 04/10/14 New York Times, but did not maintain them in order.