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.

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