Oulipo (French pronunciation: [ulipo], short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: “workshop of potential literature”) is a loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Other notable members have included novelists Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, poets Oskar Pastior, Jean Lescure and poet/mathematician Jacques Roubaud.
The group defines the term littérature potentielle as (rough translation): “the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy”.
Constraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration, most notably Perec’s “story-making machine”, which he used in the construction of Life A User’s Manual. As well as established techniques, such as lipograms (Perec’s novel A Void) and palindromes, the group devises new methods, often based on mathematical problems, such as the knight’s tour of the chess-board and permutations. (Wikipedia: Oulipo)
Just for ease of seeing – I’ve split the exercises up into lots of five.
First, I’m really aware that people are feeling a lot of pressure from all sorts of corners during the various COVID-19 lock-downs around the world. This series of short writing exercises is not meant to add any pressure – we don’t have to write that novel by the end of the lock-down!
These exercises, which I aim to release every couple of days, came about because I’m trying to find ways of supporting writers I’m working with whose courses are suspended at the moment. I was going to share these exercises anyway so I thought I’d share them a little wider using the podcast.
They are short and hopefully fun … they might be interesting just to listen to.
I’m using Free Sound Library noises in them that are licensed under Creative Commons and I’m really grateful to the folk who make these sounds available.
These podcasts aren’t sponsored although sometimes I’ll talk about books and people that the exercises have been adapted from. Intellectual Property is an interesting question in writing exercises and Ill do my best to attribute the exercises – if I mess up please let me know.
Or you can listen to it here:
Spoonbill N+7 Machine http://www.spoonbill.org/n+7/
Includes sounds from the Free Sound Library https://www.freesoundslibrary.com/beach-ambience/
More Short Red exercises:
Exercises 15 – 19: https://betterreadnz.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/short-red-exercises-4/
Exercises 20 – 23: https://betterreadnz.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/short-red-exercises-5/