Sunday, July 19, 2015

BW29: Something Completely Different - Oulipo

Have you ever heard of an Oulipo?  I was recently introduced to the form during one of my writing classes and found it quite intriguing.   Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle or OULIPO was founded by French Mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau in 1960.   Basically it is introducing a constraint while writing a poem, creating a short story, or a lipogram.  

 My first experiment with creating an OULIPO using Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken was a big failure. I tried the N + 7 route which is replace the major nouns with another noun which is the 7th one below it, in the dictionary. However the first line ending up being Two robbers diverged in a women. After I stopped laughing and got over my hot flash, tried a few variations but it just wasn’t working. Then I got the bright idea to take book titles and transform them into a story, but got as far as a weird poem.

Death Comes
Brightly Burning
Across the Endless River
On the Night Road.

Dark Shadows
In the Woods
Scream for Me,
On the Night Road.

Dark Harbor.

The Door Within
All Through The Night
A World I Never Made.

A Lethal Harvest
Watcher in the Woods
Shoot Him if He Runs.

Forgotten Garden
Born in Fire
Thunder of Heaven.

Shadow of Doubt
Rivers Edge
Never Go Back.

Brilliance of the Moon
A Walk in the Woods
The Brink of Dawn
On the Night Road.

Infinite Days
The Silent Gift
Everything Beautiful Began Again.
On the Night Road.

I experimented with a serial sentences short story by  picking random books and plugging together a bunch of sentences. I gave myself a constraint. I started with ten books of varying lengths. Started with book one, chapter one, line two, chapter two, line two, and so on up to line 25. Then I started over again at line one at chapter 25 and so on. I kept going until I ran out of chapters, setting aside books as ran out of chapters and continue until used up all the books. I juggled the sentences a bit in order for things to make a modicum of sense and was mostly successful. All from well known mystery authors.  Below is a shortened version because the original was 99 sentences.

The engine fired with a smooth rumble. The car remained still. The long straight highway just beyond the gas station cut across an alluvial fan that spread gracefully down the mountains to the desert floor. Score watched the deputy go to the escalade and circle his finger, silently telling the Breck woman to lower her window.

“Tell Red Hill to get the hell out of my way.” He sounded excited and definitive.

“I’m not leaving Leland.” She said.

“You don’t get it, do you? He’s up that tree. I left him two messages.”

And so had I. Two from Dorothy, confirming that she’d been able to rent all the equipment and uniforms I asked for.


“Oh man,” Jensen said. My uniform was identical, except that I was wearing a dark blue trucker cap that also said HVAC of Reston on the front. Careful he told himself. He popped the last of the fritos in his mouth.


Score looked at his schedule, swore under his breath, and wished he knew what the Breck girl was up to. Now that St. Kilda was off the board, arranging the downfall of the Clever Ms. Breck would be a pure pleasure. He sat down at his desk and fought against the kind of burp that made his eyes water.

Hastily, he said, “I’m kinda like—I like to leave that kind of stuff to others you know?”

“Yeah Grandpa Hank,” He confirmed.

He didn’t fancy his chances of walking away from that kind of op free, much less alive. Maybe he realized that things had changed in Washington, that the new administration didn’t want to do business with him. And just when they’re sure they’ve got it figured out, it’s over and they’ve been totally fooled.

“I want to present it to him as a complete package.”

“Got it,” Zach said. “But I’ll get back to you once I do.”

We left our interview room—which was beginning to freak me out a little, all those round watching eyes; I told myself this was a good sign—and went into the observation chamber to see how Sam was getting on.

“No I’m better now.” She waved an oak accordion file and fought back a sneeze. She placed a folder within easy reach of the table.

I nodded.

“She’s had a bad f’ing day, made all the worse by the fact her own brother wasn’t there when she needed him.”

My challenge to you this week is to create an OULIPO.  It can be a N + 7, a poem created from book title, serial sentences or whatever your imagination dreams up.  Find out more about OULIPO's here, here and here.   Have fun! 


History of the Medieval World -  Chapter 33 Two Emperors pp 237 - 245 

 Link to your most current read. Please link to your specific book review post and not your general blog link. In the Your Name field, type in your name and the name of the book in parenthesis. In the Your URL field leave a link to your specific post. 


  1. I'm finally getting caught up with reading. It's been a busy spring and summer so it's nice to be able to spend some time reading books that I have wanted to read this year. Thanks for hosting this challenge!

  2. This week I read 'Leaving Time' by Jodi Picoult. A mystery disappearance with a real twist, the ending is so surprising!

  3. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is a great story of the all time American family, highly recommended

  4. My second book this week was a modern day classic, Barbara Pym's Jane and Prudence, two Cambridge friends meet up from time to time


Thank you for your kind comments.