Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo for short) is a group of mainly French writers and mathematicians who create works with rigid constraints, in order to spark creativity and celebrate wordplay in general. My favorite example is the extraordinary sonnet “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by David Shulman, in which every line is an exact anagram of the title. Shulman wasn’t French and neither am I, but c’est la vie.
Here is my attempt at an Oulipo poem. See if you can determine the rigid constraint at play.
An Oulipo Poem
Aim your arrows carefully, and
Be careful not to miss your target. Do you
See how important the
Demarcation of the boundary is?
Even the best archers miss, in
Effect piercing the innocent, like
Jesus and His stigmata; “on target” is the
“A” choice, and off the bloody circle is the “B”.
I, myself, prefer to think my fletching’s made of
Jade, mined from whatever Byzantine
Cave my heart carves out; full of
Elements and isotopes and
Empathy for the Devil. You, there, conscience,
Enter that cave:
Open its mossy portals, discern its shadowy
People, and, on
Cue, whistle to the bats and darkness within.
Are you with me, there, inside that cave? In
Essence, the arrows and the cave are but metaphors; each a
Tease, exotic, exigent, taunting
Vehemently as you try to count your blessings. You
Double, you triple, you quadruple your count but nothing
Extra remains: the cave is empty, the arrow has missed its target, the darkness descends—
Why? Because your pain has reached a