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Welcome to the oulipian writing project, an amateur effort.

The current constraint, posted March 3:

Cento: a cento is a poem comprised of lines from other poems, by other poets.

Try your hand.


"Oulipo" stands for OUvroir de LItterature POtentielle: French for "workshop for potential literature." It is a group founded circa 1960 by François Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau to invigorate literature by composing works according to predetermined constraints. The group's official Web presence is here.

The constraints range from very simple--compose a poem solely using five-letter words--to extremely complex, with numerous transformations taking place. Georges Perec's novel "La vie mode d'emploi" is an example of the latter: each chapter describes activities within a particular apartment in an apartment building. The nature of the activities are determined according to one formula, and the order of the chapters by another.

Other notable Oulipian works include Perec's "La disparition," a novel written without the letter E, and Raymond Queneau's "100,000,000,000,000 Poems." For more information about the Oulipo proper, check out this page or Harry Mathews' excellent Oulipo Compendium.

This site isn't affiliated with the Oulipo--we just emulate their methods and since 1998 have been getting together to do little-o oulipian writings of our own. And you are invited to join us.

Every week or two weeks or so [note: this is obviously hopelessly optimistic. 09-06-00], a new constraint is chosen, and you have a week or two to compose a piece in accordance with the constraint. These are posted on the Web for the world to enjoy. There aren't any prizes for best submission or anything like that--the writing is its own reward.