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?


Well, I woke up this morning, and apparently someone has posted 120 poems to my blog this month. I’m beginning to suspect I am a character in Black Orphan. That or the GI bug that wiped me out for nearly 3 days last week was really the toxoplasmosis parasite activating and the internet cats have been taking over my body while I thought I had been sleeping. Not that I’m paranoid or anything.


Question 3:

What does your street look like?


It looks great from this café’s picture window – sunny and colorful. Did I wake up from an Oulipost dream in a new city? What happened to Seattle?


Question 4:

Who is your spirit Oulipostian?


I’ll be spending a chuck of May reading through, appreciating, and blogging on work by my fellow Oulipostians. I just couldn’t keep up with attentively reading every post this month, for obvious reasons (I had my own poems to write). That said, I will claim an interim spirit Oulipostian – Doug Luman, whose Ouliposcripts saved my time-wasting ass on more than one occasion.


Question 5:

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


As of 2:30pm PST on May, 1, 2014. I’m sure my thinking will fluctuate as I begin putting manuscript(s) together from all this output and source material, but I am particularly fond of:

 “once i saw” (#15: Prisoner’s Constraint)

I particularly liked the concept I landed on with these, paying homage to mid-century poets I admired. The prisoner’s constraint, in which you’re only allowed to use letters that do not rise above nor fall below the line, severely limits diction, especially when applied to found text, so it was helpful to find potential models to plug the words together into numerous variations. Plus, I got to re-admire the syntactical skill of some pretty amazing poets. This particular poem is modeled on Robert Duncan’s “What I Saw” from Bending the Bow. It’s an outstanding poem in a seminal collection, and when I make the substitutions, I can still see traces of Duncan without it sounding derivative. It really is a great play on the concept of “inspiration,” one I imagine Queneau and co would approve of. I plan on doing more of these and soon. Btw, if you’ve never read Duncan or Spicer or Guest, you must absolutely pause your screen, and find copies of their work immediately.


“Cliven” (#26: Belle Absente)

The belle absente form is a tough form, since you have to include all the letters except those in your honoree’s name, so I feel like I took a big gamble choosing infamous folks for this. I mean, what if my only meaningful compositional options wound up flattering these assholes? Thankfully, that didn’t happen here, thanks to some verbal advanced yoga moves and one deftly placed conjunction. I’m kinda proud that I not only avoided gibberish and/or unintentionally backing a bad mf, but I was able to turn this into thoughtful commentary on the source of Bundy’s infamy.


“head/line improvisations” (#18: Homoconsonantism)

Oulipean practices can often feel very impersonal, so it’s always nice when you can find a way to bring one’s own expressiveness (as illusory as that is) back into the process. Because homoconsonantisms retain a trace of the original found text — the consonants of the headlines in this case — I felt a bit of freedom to shape words around those. Plus, these turned out to be so easy to hear the music in, but then again the truncated syntax and the abundant mnemonics of headlines, usually have this effect. I only wish that the free version of WordPress weren’t so clunky with spacing. It really botched the visual sweep of these.


Question 2:

What questions do you have for your teaspoons? What questions do your teaspoons have for you?


Do they like coffee? Because, if not, man, they took one for the team this month.


Question 6:

What will you do next?


Continue writing like a mother. I have four full-length manuscripts that need to find cozy journal-and-press-homes, and that stack of newsprints inviting cockroaches and bladder-challenged animals into my bedroom needs to get transformed into framed magnet art pieces. And then, of course, the ghost of Robert Frost, who might just be the culprit who slipped that call for Ouliposters into my inbox, is still nervously awaiting his Google-translations.


Oulipost #30: Patchwork Quilt

Rear visibility technology

An index of first lines


We don’t believe the claim has merit

No food

Local run of

a military reservation in central Texas

People in general determined or

the season of the year astronomically

an inanimate thing understood, previously

The persons who direct or assist the navigation


America’ ★★★½

the Sunday pre-

Sunday preprinted


Coffee Coffee

Transit cuts

Times time tossed thirty-one

Its in iPad is intuitive include

my mechanism moored my many more

extend estimated expression

shown steps special storage


authorities the signal had aboard

The heat to play and celebrate the Spring

Investigating three reports by ships



It doesn’t take much to get gill rakers enthused

It’s a short wane from wren to his small stuper

By all M-estimates circular uniform


A  Mariner is

All in : noon

B it it in

To to to – to to get

A a a & a


put robots to work

more updates and more

minister denied

encryption method

you want to return

robots to speed up


A to and

A in and

A in was


The week ends

Week End



& & GPS



Seattle’s newest breed of ride-service companies, determined

The wealthy family of a Texas teenager sentenced to

Our position is that we will not be issuing

news outlets in Britain lost no time in misapprehending


See: nine man

Is in on I

One ones money



Seeking a brother/bulldozer to lead  a dynamic

Damn Afghanistan im just tryin to get back

Infants sat in

It has been a hard-

numerous remains

a minor area covers

on a corner in a room is a common music

a rare cross-economic iron


Today’s devoted discussion that it will find



just do it,” says one.

Highway from mudslide

rescue workers peeled


jobs “go out to pile”

many events small

burn barrel distant

day doing dishes

some flooding, something

all-Oso Fire scene

You don’t think about

heavy equipment

it’s part of being

piles of mud the locals

flattened. born in tent

the slide finding “cars

the man usual

There is no normal

work is personal —

the floor at the fire



ear for a node

a fad warn is

capo it a name

ego                  I                     obey



One analyst dubbed 2014 “the year of the biblical movie.”

“We fully expect to lose it,” said Jaudon,

Republicans argue that Putin is on a rampage because

History goes that the “Lone Rock,” as it was once called,

Tricking the eye is key to decorating smaller.



In an organism, when an organism from one gene is

Two hours struggle with the life blow can inflict.

“The Joseph Boyden Orenda war.” A Knopf wilderness

DEAR MID-20S: I am in my Amy,

Peaks can get to almost every you

Born of heat, baked in ice,


“On weekends, I can make up ”

“God bless his tireless fight,” he said

He calls her “little shanty by the tracks.” “He had another


Egotistic indulgers assembled the spirit of Western tourists

An amateur techno character frequently hiding


Wash                     elephant              between                             his


She suspected when she walked

He proposed when another targeted

They warned when we announced

We celebrated where few holstered

They announced when we teetered

It found when we demonized

You seemed when he clarified


The CBO has a minor kerfuffle



The phoenix, flower-like, moves between zone and journey. A quality looking



Analysts see big

A firearms fixture

Not knowing the where


circumstances other-



in a twister that

Many players want

As in so many of these awful cases

Note on composition and process:

This poem is literally what the subtitle says, an inventory of first lines in order from every poem I posted as part of the Found Poetry Review’s Oulipost 2014 project.

Wow! I thought this month would be a somewhat productive period, but I didn’t realize how much writing I had done until I went back to do this indexical piece. My count may be a bit off, but a rough tally had me clocking in at  120 pieces! Granted some were more documents of experiments than finished pieces, and I was counting all segments as poems in sequence, but I did not expect so many nearly finished pieces and sequences. Plus I still have a wealth of untapped, formatted and sorted material to go back to. It looks like this summer I’ll be busy collecting and editing poems, going back to my material to flesh out a few sequences, and taking an exacto knife  and glue to the stack of 30 newspapers taking space in a corner of my bedroom.

Please keep tuned in. This week I intend to follow up on this project with an exit interview and a rundown on my favorite poems by other Ouliposters. And throughout May and June, I intend to give updates on how this material all comes together.



Oulipost #29: Canada Dry

Last Auction

in a twister that
said the county has ended
the list of targets
we knew this day
satellites from space showed
logging trucks will be
the latest onslaught
turn to tunnel
this portal is just
a tragedy might help revive
a dwarfed Monday

Sterling Fallout

Many players want
good news on the horizon
outrage over racist comments
surrounded by maybe a dozen
possible options. It remains
a beacon of hope for mariners
a suspension of indefinite
chance, he said.

Bikini Kills 90’s

As in so many of these awful cases
transit reorganized itself into
a teachable moment
might reveal sanctions
In the end it’s my responsibility
keeps her heritage at
no surprises rule
after a half-mile wide tornado carved
the tunnel boring machine
announced at a news conference.


Poems were constructed from numerous articles in the  Seattle Times 29 April 2014. Print.

Note on composition and process:

These poems are sort-of quasi-oulipean experiments, an procedure Oulipeans called Canada Dry, which takes it’s name 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.” 

While many of the methods and procedures I’ve toyed with this month may have appeared random, or works of pure chance, they are anything but. The Dadaists and Surrealists may have engaged the creative potential of chaos via chance-operations, but the Oulipeans employed their arbitrary constraints as a bulwark against chance. These poems, though they sound combinatorial, or constrained, like many of the syntax substitutions, are really just products of chance. I simply placed the paper on the table and spun my pen in the air above it. I jotted down the phrases it landed on, and kept going until the poems seemed done. They required little of me as a writer, only a time, place, and the laws of physics.

Be sure to check out the Found Poetry Review blog to see how other writers emulated constraint without constraints.

Oulipost #28: Melting Snowball



circumstances other-

worldly engineering

California tunneling

troubled complex

series shows that

was an I



dog construction

delicately ram-

shackle certainly

shouting against

scores tough with

and in A


Poems were constructed from numerous articles in the  Seattle Times 28 April 2014. A1 Print.

Note on composition and process:

These two poems  are experiments with Oulipean Melting Snowballs, which are the obverse of the snowball poems in which each line/word is 1-character longer that the preceding word. In this form you start with the longest word, and work back to a single letter. Be sure to check out other Ouliposter’s take on the Melting snowball poem at the Found Poetry Review blog.

These are pretty easy. This time I worked directly from the print edition, because it can be nice to not stare at a computer screen and contribute to carpal tunnel. I focused solely on the front page. Since longer words aren’t as prevalent as “I” or “A,” I figured I have to do this a little less procedurally than the snowballs I did back on the 10th. I began by looking for the longest word (it was “responsibility” clocking in at 15 letters). I cataloged all the 10,11,12,13, and 14-letter words as a start, began putting the poems together. Then I went back and noted all the 7, 8, and 9-letter words, and filled in more of the poems. By the time I got to 6-letter words, the rest of the poems just started jumping out at me. I opted against presenting these as one-word lines, because it looks pretty awful in the WordPress format. I think it’d be interesting to see how many varied-length melting snowballs could be made from each page, but that’s what the summer is for.

Oulipost #27: Irrational Sonnet

The Wild Side of Summer Movies
(3 Irrational Sonnets)

Analysts see big
shooters and police
at risk, including:


The case of a California
phone loaded with pictures
police fear losing an investigative
instinct, was searched by


holes in computer networks that
trace any guns found at
the restructuring of the Boeing
paperwork about who had the
engineers’ $100M a year


A firearms fixture
put the public
risks in loss.


some of them imprudent
contain personal info that
the Founding Fathers will meet
incriminated by his smart


hindering police efforts to trace
crime scenes, putting the public
savings seen at centers
keep electricity flowing, have become
a piece of Boeing’s broader push


Not knowing the where
of loyal, proven
hunters target shooter’s


selfie generation this week,
searched, no warrant, police
tool; others contend devices
when the Supreme Court dialed


big bucks in moving Boeing –
a major domestic-security concern
about who had the guns
hindering police efforts to trace
this is just an incredible number.


Poems were constructed from numerous articles in the  Seattle Times 27 April 2014. A1 Print Replica.

Note on composition and process:

These poems in the Oulipean form of irrational sonnets, or sonnets in which the stanza-lengths are influenced by the irrational number pi —  3 lines/1line/4lines/1line/5lines. Be sure to check out how other Ouliposters treated this quirky form on the Found Poetry Review blog.

For this exercise, I decided to amp up the irrationality by reflecting the stanza lengths in the line lengths as well. I scanned the front page of the paper for 2-word, 9-word, 16-word, and 25-word groupings that might work. Then I broke the groupings up into 1,3,4,and 5 word chunks and mixed and matched the sets. Not a bad outcome, despite my rushing to try and finish this exercise before the month’s end. I might come back and treat other pages of the paper in a similar fashion when I return to these next month, but for now, I must sprint on to finish with my fellow ouliposters.

Oulipost #26: Beautiful Outlaw (Belle Absente)


The phoenix, flower-like, moves between zone and journey. A quality looking
burns this moving experience as a square projects a known defense, drives a canonization highway
toward the complex background, subjects every growth to extra effort
to the beautiful explosion of the quarter, a walking battery, a plaza made into injury.
This harbor quickly draws down luxury from an organization of living, but a major work
requires us to ask the software how we could get some give, play just outside the boxes.


Poem was constructed from numerous articles in the  Seattle Times 26 April 2014 Print Replica.

Note on composition and process:

This poem is an example of the Oulipean form the Belle Absente, or Beautiful Outlaw, in which each line of the poem functions as a perfect lipogram of a letter of a person’s name, in sequence, such that the first line includes all the letters of the alphabet except the first letter of the name, the second includes every letter except the second, and so on. It’s a pretty challenging form to work with, so be sure to head over to the Found Poetry Review blog and check out how the various Ouliposters managed to work with it.

Having done one of these in warmups for this month, I knew this would be a time-waster, as are many of lipogram-esque methods. That means, I had a lot of java-based text sorting, and less time to compose, but oh, well. I began by pulling down the print replica of the Seattle Times and extracting the raw text into an MS Word file, and stripping all the extraneus characters, numerals, and spacing. I then went back to the pdf,and manually scanned the paper for  it’s antagonists and outlaws. There were plenty. Aparantly, it was a big weekend for racist foot-in-mouth disease. I decided, for the sake of time, that I would focus on only one for now — Cliven Bundy, darling of anti-government militants, and this weekend’s winner for outlandish racist claptrap. I took my raw text over to Doug Luman’s handy Ouliposcripts, and used the “lipogram” setting to create 5 versions of the text: one without each letter of Bundy’s first name. I then took each lipogrammed text over to the advanced text-analyzer at UsingEnglish in order to weed out all the repeated words, and to alphabetize my lists. Since I have to include all 25 of the other letters in each line, I then went to my Word file and searched for words containing high-scoring Scrabble letters: z, v, j,q,k,b and f. Once I made sure I had those letters covered, I popped my words for each line into Doug Luman’s helpful outlaw spreadsheet to see what letters I still needed. Finally, I pieced together the lines from the words in the spreadsheet, adding in articles and common prepositions as needed. This one turned out much better than the warm-up, but this time, I knew I needed to expand my word pool beyond a single article.

Oulipost #25: Larding


The CBO has a minor kerfuffle
The news didn’t shock most officials
A newspaper quoted the father of 14
He recalled driving past a public-housing project
creating a masterpiece in a mug
The move follows what he said was “the overwhelming success”
“Regrettably … we don’t have an agreement”
Hanging out on the beach for the summer is not productive
“The window to change course is closing.”
Some are rethinking their safety
But getting around the suburbs after hours would be tougher
At the same time, most will be receiving
That development counted as a “big improvement”
We’re pleased with the overall fundamentals
At the end of the day, the bulk of the growth is adding people
experts say a measured approach is the right one
It would be a major victory for the network
The Internet empowers pimps to post an endless stream of titillating photos
Cloud is clearly their No. 1 maniacal focus right now
Americans don’t like messy narratives
I’d rather be late and get it right,” he said.
Sometimes students have a vision
It resonates with customers
We’re investing heavily in new geographies

Poem was constructed from sentences numerous articles in the A section of Seattle Times 25 April 2014 Print Replica.

Note on composition and process:

This poem was an experiment with the Oulipean method of “larding,” in which you continually pad the narrative by inserting new sentences between the existing sentences until the poem reaches a desired inflation. Check out the Found Poetry Review blog for the official prompt and to see what other poets have done with this method.

I must say, the end of the month is fast at hand, and I think I’m bordering on burnout. I found it pretty difficult to stay focused on this method, though I see potential. As with many of the other exercises, I began by scanning the print replica of the Seattle Times for a couple of sentences to start with. I quickly landed on two subtitles: “We’re stuck at the moment” and “Mayor says there’s still time for accord.” I then went article by article through section A of the paper pulling a sentence from each and inserting it between sentences already on the page. I must confess, I tried to go in order, but my head was hurting and I broke my own protocol, inserting lines between sentences wherever I felt like it. I also took some liberties in revision by reordering the lines a bit, and by eliminating the final line (the second of my two originals) because I decided I just didn’t like it.  I’ll probably come back and take another stab at this when I’m less cranky, but for now, it is what it is — a tub of lard with some tasty lines thrown in.

Oulipost #24: Homosyntaxism


“I said when I took the job that I wanted them to take on my personality.” – Lloyd McClendon

She suspected when she walked
the dog that it imagined her
to dream with her nose.
He proposed when another targeted
the slope that they dumped it
to collapse across the aerospace.
They warned when we announced
the work that it believed us
to fend with our attention.
We celebrated where few holstered
the community that we gathered there
to cling to our control.
They announced when we teetered
the difference that we created it
to clamp down their frustration.
It found when we demonized
the creamery that it associated us
as eating with our stigmas.
You seemed when he clarified
the poetic license that you fantasized him
meditating with his undercurrents.


Poems were constructed from numerous articles in Seattle Times 24 April 2014 Print Replica.

Note on composition and process:

These aphoristic poem(s) are an experiment with the Oulipean constraint of homosyntaxism, which basically means the syntax remains the same. The idea was to take a setence from the April 24th edition of the Seattle Times and to replace every word with another word, but to retain the syntax, or grammatical construction. Be sure to check out the Found Poetry Review blog for the official prompt and check out other Ouliposters’ takes on this fun little synthetic form.

This one was pretty easy and reminiscent of other mad-libby exercises (n+7, chimera, antynomy, column inches). I’m pretty adept at the parsing by now. I began this one, by snagging an article from each page. Then I scanned the articles for a good sentence. I settled on 10, then chose to work with just one for now. I wrote down the sentence — it was a quote from Seattle Mariners’ skipper Lloyd McClendon that I found somewhat poetic in it’s own right. I transcribed it by parts of speech (i.e. “Pronoun Verb(ed) Relative Pronoun Pronoun Verb(ed) the Noun Pronoun Pronoun Verb(ed) Personal Pronoun to Verb Preposition Possessive Pronoun Noun.”). Then I tried my hand at just filling one in myself (first stanza/poem). I kind of felt like this was cheating a bit, so then I went back and scanned through the articles I had originally snagged, using words I found there. It barely took an hour to do everything. I’ll probably try my hand at doing this again with all the quotes I pulled out, maybe doing one stanza/poem for each article in the paper.

Oulipost #23: Inventory

oulipost 23 inventory vispo

Poem was constructed from a photo caption in Seattle Times 23 April 2014. B1. Print Replica.

Photo: Matt Trease, 2014

Note on composition and process:

This poem is an example of the Oulipean form of poetic inventory. The basic idea is to take a text, or portion of a text from the April 23 edition of the paper and create an inventory of the words, cataloging them by parts of speech, and to make a poem by creatively manipulating the presentation. Read the official prompt and other Ouliposters’ inventory poems at the Found Poetry Review blog.

For this exercise, I began by browsing the print replica of the Seattle Times, and copying and pasting  articles and other print matter I found interesting. I then began cataloging the parts of speech for each selection in an Excel spreadsheet. Then I transferred each list as a column back into Word, adding empty lines in each column to create a poem. None of this was terribly time-consuming. However, the text editor in WordPress does not allow for tabbing, which created a ton of problems for presenting the pieces here on the blog. Hence I opted to show the shortest poem of the 4 I actually finished — an inventory of the diction of a photo caption on the front page of the regional section. I actually had a pretty surreal pic of the sign from the original photo, so I used it as the background for the image, and re-assembled the poem in photoshop.


Oulipost #22: Antonymy

Tourists compliment welcome before the coming depression

Egotistic indulgers assembled the spirit of Western tourists who weren’t exhumed out of the most invigorating miracle to compliment the extreme depression, a prosperity that hasn’t repressed silence against declining approvals by the West’s diverse vacationing individualists. A tourist’s welcome couldn’t trivially appease the depression descending occasion, which isn’t insignificant to the avocation of an individual Western sightseer or customer. Unremarkable in spite of their declining incompetence or below-level lethargy, Western tourists withhold unlike followers or recipients against deep-sea depression-descending delays. In contrast, they avoid a harmless sky, tearing down a fray or disorder to destroy a difficult roadblock opposed by defaulting marketers. At most 31 Westerners were born when a stream of water tightly adhered against a depression or prevented a dam that mended around an individual drone dropping an abstraction. Thirty Westerners found outside Monday’s tranquility are no doubt alive.

An oft-occuring  composure departs before brief existences

An amateur techno character frequently hiding castigates her de-contextualization on Tuesday without “brief timelessness … frequent no shows,” mild departures from irresponsibilities before the seventy‐day presence. A concluding outsider resigns solo artists from few erasures excluding “A Rush of Days,” which wasn’t last concealed off a frequent ambiguity’s 1973 single “New Individuals.” While the dissonance hits a deflating blockage of lagging concealers, born of a heart flutter in 1996, its death‐off‐the‐rough hateful truths shies away from subtracted exteriority 14 days earlier. Girl Talk takes its muteness from the auto tune silence logged calm, which it eventually erased, only not in a opposition to a gay New York  boy. A complication not here isn’t sadder than a derivative nor impedes an imperfect partitioning of its gloomy silence without a discord of frequently absent mufflers Its first disappearance, a big California slump, loses an individual from her downbeat worst other than when she topples a big sour apathetic pause through its balanced upright bass. From techno or death metal, haters’ brief endings … frequent  displacements do not require optional indifferences.


Poems were constructed from:

Gubrubacharya, Binaj.Sherpas threaten boycott after Everest deaths.” Associated Press as reprinted in Seattle Times 22 April 2014 Print Replica. A1.

Wilson, Owen R. “The Seldom Scene Returns After Long Absence.” Seattle Times 22 April 2014 Print Replica. B3.

Note on composition and process:

These two poems were experiments with the Oulipean method, antonymy, in which as the name alludes, every significant word is replaced with its antonym or opposite. The objective here was to take an articler in the April 22 edition of the local paper and perform such an androgynous swap. Check out the full prompt and read other poets’ attempts at this exercise at the Found Poetry Review blog.

For this exercise, I pulled down the full text of about 20 articles from the Seattle times, narrowed that down to about 8, and finally worked on these two: a news report of a Sherpa boycott and an album review. I just went word for word, plugging each term into Thesaurus.com and picking one of the antonyms listed. At times, I had to wade through the synonyms of word, like for the word “avalanche”,  to find one that actually had antonyms listed. I also had to be creative with proper nouns like “Sherpas” and “Mt. Everest,” as these had no direct antonyms. I opted to treat them as symbols and /or generic objects instead. For some words I had to swap the part of speech from noun to verb and vice versa in order to find an opposite. I also tried to replace definite articles with indefinite ones and singular nouns with plural nouns as well. I had a lot of fun with this method. It’s pretty quick and easy to perform, and the results are quite astounding. I guess this makes sense, given that the method performs a kind of negative dialectic, disrupting the objectivity of the journalistic prose. I’m sure I’ll come back next month to finish the other 6 or so articles I didn’t get to. I’m curious to see what this will do to the advice column, or an already severely abstract text like the horoscope. Not only timelessness won’t be silent.