Ok, sure. It’s not like a mash-up of a Bush speech is the most timely political gesture, but it’s still amusing, especially when done well. This video, by Lenka Clayton, alphabetizes all the words from his 2002 State of the Union addresses. The effect is maddening, frenetic, and comical. Certain words get repeated over and over again (“Afghanistan," "firefighters") and it’s a pleasure to hear the president stutter (“if, if, if, if…”).

Of course we can post such a video to Harriet because it has obvious resonances with some contemporary poetic practice (it’s constraint based, it highlights the “materiality” of language, etc). But even more urgent are the questions it raises with regards to user-generated content on the internet. Much of such work resembles art and poetry, but is clearly not framed or experienced as art or poetry. So how do we read it, and what distinctions do we draw between an Oulipo-inspired poem and those YouTube videos which are certainly Oulipo-inspired, but nonetheless share similarities of technique?

Originally Published: December 5th, 2010