Posted by: dougery | February 25, 2012

Form and Genre Challenge: OULIPO

I know I disappointed my legion of loyal fans (all 4 of you) by missing last week’s Form and Genre challenge, which was Romance. Fortunately I’ll get another crack at the genre in September when ‘paranormal romance’ arrives (in all seriousness, I cannot wait for that one).

You can all breath deep as I am back this weekend for round #3, which is an unusual exercise to say the least. Participants were tasked with employing the OULIPO, which if you don’t already know what that is, I fear I won’t be able to tell you without putting you to sleep. If you want to learn more about its history click here.

Basically this is an exercise in formal restraint where one takes a previously existing text (or poem) and modifies it according to a mathematical formula. The most common formula, and the one that I have used, is the ‘n+7 model’ where the writer/poet eliminates certain important words by looking them up in the dictionary and replacing them with the word that appears 7 definitions later. This process is surprisingly time-consuming, difficult and, I discovered, still offers room for interpretation. For instance when I looked up the word ‘teenager’ I chose to ‘not count’ all the words that followed it in the dictionary that began with ‘teen.’ I’m not sure if this is kosher with the OULIPO crew, but so be it.

For my FGC #3 submission I have taken the hip-hop song “Excursions” by Tribe Called Quest (featuring snippets from the Last Poets) and used the ‘n+7’ OULIPO formula to replace all substantive nouns. Thus tomorrow you can read, should you desire, “Execration” by Triceps Called Quiche.



  1. adding math to writing strikes me as mildly evil if not a touch contemptible, but I’m interested where you’re going with this.

    • I know, right? Usually I see a formula and immediately break out into hives. But reading about the Oulipians makes me think they’re pretty interesting folks.

      Anyhow, I’m not actually going to enter this work after further discussion on the FGC board as I’m sure there are roughly a metric tonne of copyright issues involved and I don’t want to get anybody sued.

      I’ll still post it here, and link it in the comments on FGC, but not via the official Mr Linky gadget.,

  2. I think if Tribe Called Quest had been named Triceps Called Quiche they never would have broken up. I mean, how can you break up a group with a name that awesome?

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