OULIPO's N + 7 form

Poetic Techniques: OULIPO
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.
Lionnais and Quenuau believed in the profound potential of a poem produced within a framework or formula and that, if done in a playful posture, the outcomes could be endless.
One of the most popular OULIPO formulas is “N+7,” in which the writer takes a poem already in existence and substitutes each of the poemรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs substantive nouns with the noun appearing seven nouns away in the dictionary. Care is taken to ensure that the substitution is not just a compound derivative of the original, or shares a similar root, but a wholly different word. Results can vary widely depending on the version of the dictionary one uses.
from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5785 via http://judes.livejournal.com/
Interesting idea to keep the grammatical structure and phrasing but change the content. It’s apt to make nonsense and skew the music of the original but yet the process interacts.
Taking the poem word by word, I realize how simple of words she chose. Some so basic, a basic dictionary don’t have them and using a Collins dictionary to make substitutions, the concepts become too abstract. It becomes…well, judge for yourself…
I modified using N + 7 Coming Back From Town by Sina Queyras
Coming back from Toxic
In the center two Magyars disappeared into a small maw.
Snug has begun to stick. I lie flat on the pathognomy*, expose my bent.
Flashes kiss and melt on my nebula, Tonle Sap River, closed eyrie.
I remember you trailing a burst ballyhoo up Prince of Wales Island
in your wool cobra, the harmonica lake paying no attic salt, smell
of wood, smoothbore in your hakea, society beeping and blinking.
Or, gin-drunk outside Cafe Sargodha, how you wound yourself in
my simile, snug falling on your delicious, frosting negations. I long
to lick your litany, wipe your steamy little morass. Come to me now.
Slip your hank in my jefe. No one will find us here. Tell me
there’s no way this coleorhiza* can last

*pathognomy – study of passions and emotions and their manifestations
*coleorhiza – a protective sheath around the radicle (embryo of seed bearing plants that develops into the root) in grasses

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6 Comments

  1. Fascinating stuff! I’ve read about Oulipo before but have never tried it per se. I’ve written what Greg Betts refers to as Plunderverse where you use s/o else’s poem in its exact order, but pick specific words.

    I like your N + 7 ๐Ÿ™‚ especially “wipe your steamy little morass”

    Those big words are great too! I can imagine a poem centred around “coleorhiza” I just can’t pronounce the derned thing ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks A.

      Yes, I want to try plunderverse. I have a feeling I would enjoy the mechanics and the lego-examination aspects.

      coleorhiza is a bit of a mouthful.

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