Skip to content

Oulipo and Slight and Sight Meanings

Oulipo, its nature of constraints, appeals. It isn’t coding language to manipulate the hormones, ready the heartstrings for the manufactured roller coaster narrative. It isn’t taking itself seriously, exactly.

Harry Mattews on his path to Oulipo in Lacanian Ink:

During a recent stay in Berlin, I became friends with the poet Oskar Pastior, no Oulipian but nonetheless addicted to combinatorial stratagems. Each of us proposed methods unfamiliar to the other: I sestinas, he anagrams. We began exploring their possibilities.

The projects I then undertook were ferociously hard: a three-part composition based on anagrams of our two names distributed according to 3 x 24 permutations; a sestina consisting entirely of anagrams of its six end-words. I ate frugal, hasty meals; slept little; neglected my friends. During those long hours, I have no doubt that, to an unobtrusive observer, my face would have manifested the oblivious intentness of a six-year-old girl playing hopscotch.

It’s engaging, the puzzle making. Any primate, dolphin, octopus or goat can be pulled into curiosity of how something might work or be undone. Anagrams, palindromes, like 142 Pantoons for a funeral, challenge us to interlock and make formulaicly consistant yet freshly. Tom Lubbock mentioned dom sylvester houédard “invented the beautiful palindrome “drawninward” (it reads both ways, but it’s drawn inward to the “I” at its centre) and the brilliant word turnover “deus/snap” (in which God snaps himself).”

The doing is fun. Consuming the pwoermd is enjoyable. The boundaries of fusions and confusions in his NTST is based inside our culture on a rich context of what the reader brings forward. Seeing a good one represents a huge amount of process and processing of fiddling around for a click.

At the same time it all appeals like soccer appeals. I can understand the joy of running about but not why anyone would want to be in the stadium for a sustained period and stay attentive? The main gratification of game is play, not watching play. Do we need to watch in order to play? By nature mammals learn from modelling. Only watching isn’t enough. Only playing isn’t enough. In Absurdist Monthly (aug 09), Kenneth J. Knoespel talks about Mikhail Bakhtin’s Ideologies of Reception.

A fundamental mark of Bakhtin’ s critical philosophy involves his challenge that we become aware that the language with which we work is never ours alone. In sharp contrast to poetic theory that would individualize the experience of language —a kind of Cartesian poetics— Bakhtin reminds us that we are in continuous conversation with others.

That clicks against what derek beaulieu just said in his 12 or 20 interview about NO press:

Poets in ostrich-like ignorance of the potential of sharing—as opposed to hoarding—their texts, are ignoring potentially the most important artistic innovation of the 20th century: collage. What’s at stake? Nothing but their own obsolescence. If you don’t share you don’t exist.

Meaning can’t exist in isolation, not of an idea, not of a word, not of a person. The parts of language in themselves are arbitrary, having no inherent symbolic meaning, as linguist Saussure said a century ago, but are made by their relationship to other parts. Context is what makes meaning for its parts, whether letters or words, phrases, sentences, works or lives.

much like Absurdism, semantic content is of little importance to Letterists, who, by emphasizing the sound value of words to produce emotions, originally sought to demonstrate that beauty and worth lies purely in auditory sounds ~ Pascal-Denis Lussier, The Anti-Art of Art Built on Un-Creating Past Creative Creations

The Letterists tried. Did it work to ascribe sound to be meaning, as sounds could be a bypass around the perceived, direct connection with the real? I remember discussions when I was 15 with a friend, how he schemed as a painter to arrive at the colors that could transcend all cultural and linguistic differences and directly mean the same emotional experience to different people.

I suppose it says something that my opinion is unchanged. I want to be that optimistic, even looking at the shine of his idealism and his desire for unity and connection and direct sharing. But ears vary, eyes vary, from person to person, from age to age before we even heap on the associations and the contexts. One blue beside an orange will be entirely different than surrounded by a green-tinted white. Habituation of sounds change the perceptual filter.

No matter how perfect the arrangement of shapes or sounds or gesture, no matter how much your elaborate into story or cut down to molecular simplicity, you can’t eliminate differences in how something is perceived. You can’t winnow down to one possible response.

Yet, some things can reach universal. A grief of a bereft horse, of an old dog, of a widowed bird, of a dementia human may make gestures that most species can read. Is it a sound, a movement, a context of knowing comparable grief that allows a compassionate knowing and seeing? What it signifies may be conveyed but what you do with that signification varies. Innocence to a father is to protect. The same innocence to a wolf is opportunity. To each the response may be mingled but one prevails. The base vulnerability may be equally visible but to one whose own perceptual filters are clogged, there may not be bandwidth enough to look past self to perceive vulnerability of grief for example. The signification is there to be read which does not mean it will be read. Is it communicated if there is no audience? Ah, into the forest and wind-fallen trees. You need to come to the gesture with a desire or toolbox to perceive.

Related posts:

  1. Concrete Poetry I’m trying to wrap my head around concrete poetry again. Better head than ankles I suppose. I always try to go too deep, mining for meaning when reading. Thinking too...
  2. OULIPO’s N + 7 form Poetic Techniques: OULIPO Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (OULIPO), or Workshop of Potential Literature, investigates the possibilities of...

Categories: Uncategorized.

Comment Feed

2 Responses



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] Thinking about poetry and meaning. […]

  2. […] huge list of Oulipo Oulpo […]