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Constrain yourself: 50 years of Oulipo

By Harriet Staff

The 2010 Conference on Constrained Poetry promises lectures and workshops on the language of numerology, “poetical mathematics,” and other startling discoveries in the in field of limitation. Conceived as a celebration of 50 years of Oulipo by UNCA Associate Professor of Math Patrick Bahls with Literature Professor Richard Chess, the conference will also “include examples from Oulipo members such as Harry Mathews, Raymond Queneau, George Perec and Jaques Roubaud, as well as examples from contemporary American poets such Harryette Mullen and Bernadette Mayer,” alongside examinations of process.

“Oulipo is an acronym for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, usually translated as the ‘Workshop of Potential Literature.’ I will emphasize the alternative translation, ‘Sewing Circle of Potential Literature,’ in that the French word Ouvroir [can mean] a collective of women who get together to talk and sew, [like] a French kind of ‘Stitch-N-Bitch,’ with a piece of literature [produced] rather than a coverlet.”

[Lee Ann] Brown will apply this idea of poetry as communal craft to life in the Old North State. “The [sewing circle] metaphor seems to reverberate more with some of the cultural forms found around North Carolina,” she said. “I will suggest some ways to forge new literary forms out of forms that proliferate here, such as quilts, roadmaps and geodesic domes.”

It’s hard to argue that any literary form derived from a geodesic dome could be anything but fun, but just in case you weren’t convinced, “Brown insisted that the conference will be less iambic pentameter-meets-multiplication table, and more of a fun exploration of language. Expect “to try new things that might help get past any math and/or poetry anxieties you may have stored up by two days of collective word play,” she said.”

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Posted in Uncategorized on Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Harriet Staff.