Category Archives: belle absente (beatiful outlaw)

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.