Exit Oulipost – the Melting Interview

It has been such a wild ride – I could not have imagined a writing experience more intense than last year’s Pulitzer Remix, but this was.  We’ve all been saying goodbyes and making plans to keep in touch and keep writing together (and I know we will!), but I wanted to bookend this month of Ouliposting with an Oulipian style interview.  Here are the FPR interview questions, in reverse, after the month’s experience, plus a few which the editors threw in later. I’ve taken some liberties with the questions, but then, this is all about taking liberties – isn’t it?


FPR: Who is your spirit Oulipostian?

After a whole month of trying to be free-spirited, wild, and crazy, I’d have to say I now have even more respect for John Ashbery than I already did.  I think of him as a serious, introspective poet, but through Oulipo I was exposed to his silly, playful sestina around the characters from the comic “Popeye”.  If a writer like Ashbery can find it in himself to let loose, surely there is hope for me!


FPR: What are the top three poems you wrote during this project?

Well, my personal favourites were the Quote Cento “I Fell in Love at First Sound“, the Larding “Invocation“, and the Irrational Sonnet “Bird Sightings“.


FPR: What did you learn about choosing text to mine for material?

First off, I’ve never been a reader of the Boston Globe, so I’ve gained a real appreciation for the way in which a paper of that size is put together.  I was surprised  that some of the most passionate writing was to be found in the sports section; I gleaned a lot of material from those fields. Perhaps the biggest thing I learned about my source text is the value of using local writers.  Reading through many Ouliposts, I could often see where writers selected the same quotes.  Though I shared the Globe with another Ouliposter, I hope I was able to minimize overlaps by focusing on subjects and writers from this region.


FPR: Describe your street.

It is long to me, a dirt road; halfway is a nice lady who sometimes gives me a cool drink.  I find snakes in the dust when it is dry, tiny brown frogs in the puddles when it is damp.  Beside the road are daisies and purple clover, and I sip their nectar through each little red petal. At the end is quicksand on one side; on the other the yellow house with it’s basement, soldering iron, and the cherry smell of burnt flesh. (this is my memory of the first street I lived on; suddenly I see why this is an Oulipo question).


FPR: What did you learn about writing experimental or found poetry?

I learned that writing poetry which is both experimentally constrained and found is very, very hard!  My average time for writing each of these was about three hours; there were several which took me five hours!  I was surprised by which forms I liked, and which I didn’t.  It turns out that I love cento work, and I had never tried my hand at it.  I also came to think of found poetry as having three basic categories: erasures (I would call forms like the Snowballs and Univocalism types of erasures), pastiche or remix (my sonnets were definitely remixed), and centos (I used phrases and lines as cento work in forms such as Larding and Confabulation).


FPR:  In reflection, what was actually “scary” about Oulipo?

Maybe not scary, but intimidating – trying to “make it new”, and come up with interesting, fresh ways to approach constraints that I was uncomfortable with.  I think Ouliposter Margo Roby just nailed it early on with her lipogram – that piece was my inspiration every time I felt stumped by a prompt.  And while this wasn’t scary, I was rather sad that I could not get to read everyone’s posts every day.  Really, by the end of the month, it was such a struggle to keep up with my own posts that I would only get a chance to read a few.  I intend to spend much of May remedying that!


FPR:  What was the most exciting part about Oulipost?

Wow, that’s a toss up!  The writing itself was just so exhilarating – the constant challenges, the break-neck speed, the rush when a piece worked, either through intent or lagniappe.  Equally wonderful were my fellow Ouliposters, though.  Many of us had never worked a blog before (raises hand), and the community was so helpful and supportive as we learned the ropes.  Everyone helped talk each other through confusing prompts and read and commented on each other’s writing as much as we could.  There are some shockingly good poems on each and every Ouliblog!  I was constantly amazed and inspired.


FPR: So, would you do it all again? What’s next?

Would I!  I need to rest and recover, but part of me absolutely cannot wait to see what the outstanding editors at the Found Poetry Review come up with for next year’s National Poetry Month!  Jenni Baker, Beth Ayer, Doug Lumen and Marty Elwell are beyond the best – they’ve assembled a dream team of enthusiastic writers, and handled every aspect of Oulipo with grace and wit.  On top of all that, they each wrote for all the Oulipost prompts as well – unbelievable! We, the Ouliposters, salute you!  As to what’s next, first some rest, then back to submitting.  I’d really fallen off the wagon with that.  Oh, and the Oulihive is already buzzing with project ideas….


FPR: What questions do you have for your teaspoons?  What questions do your teaspoons have for you?

What questions do I have for my teaspoons? – What is the point of you? Why do you take up space in my drawers?  Don’t you know that I am a Tassajarra baker, and measure just with my hands and fingertips?  What questions do my teaspoons have for me? – Why do you ruin so much food?  What does it mean to measure? How many households have we lived in?



8 thoughts on “Exit Oulipost – the Melting Interview

  1. Great idea, Sonja! I think we all ought to do this, although I might need to see it as an “Oulipost assignment” before I tackle it myself today. It’s been a pleasure to read as much of your work as I have been able to so far and I look forward to the opportunity to read and savor it with more time in the month of May!

  2. How clever! I love your idea. I grinned at [and appreciated] your comment about seeing what the mind is capable of when deliberately constrained. There is a lot to that. I’m hoping that I will include constraints as part of my creating.
    Two years of wonderful fun with wonderful people. To next year!

  3. Great interview, Sonja, and thanks for this piece. I am not sure I will do a wndup post, as I am a bit wound down at the moment, and taking some time to do other pressing tasks, although less interesting than the Ouliposting. I did get the Compendium (on the last day!!!) and so can look forward to many hours of constraint and inspiration. There is enough in it to last a lifetime of poetry months.

      • That’s great, Sonja, I look forward to seeing the result(s) of this exercise. I have been experimenting with this form for a couple of weeks, if you truly let yourself sink into it, a wide open space can appear in the sense that you can lose the fear to express. Sooner or later (if you continue with the exercise) you write as you would like, not how you feel/think others would like. Thank you 🙂

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