Form and Genre Challenge #3

The OULIPO Challenge

For submission the week ending Sunday, 26th February.

Challenge: To write an OULIPO styled poem. (Please note somewhere in your post the equation you used).
Genre: Open
Word Count: Open

Submission Guidelines

  1. Submission are open for a 24 hours period every Sunday starting GMT(UCT) 00:01.
  2. Submissions are via the Mr Linky widget in a dedicated blog post on the Write Anything site every Sunday. Any stories linked via the comments section will be considered ineligible.
  3. All stories must be freely available on a blog or website for reading and commenting. For longer pieces writers may consider in addition to publishing the story in a blog post, to also link to a downloadable PDF version of the story (this is not compulsory though).
  4. Stories must be clearly labelled ‘FGC’ and the challenge number cited in the title of your blog post, along with the story name: ie. [FGC #1] The Greatest Story on Earth
  5. Stories must adhere to the challenge guidelines for the week (form, genre & word count). Any stories not adhering to the challenge guidelines (especially word count) will be ineligible for judging. Any stories submitted using challenge guidelines from previous weeks will also be ineligible.
  6. Write Anything staff are eligible to submit, but will be considered ineligible from the judge’s award on any week where they sit as part of the judging panel.
  7. By submitting a story participants are also committing to read a minimum of three other stories.

10 Responses to “Form and Genre Challenge #3”

  1. Rob Diaz says:

    Well, this one sure seems like it might be a really fun drinking game. I wonder if that’s how it got started.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’ve looked on the internet for more details about Oulipo. Is it always N+7 or can it be any number?

    • Hi Jeff,
      It seems that N+7 is the most common equation used… where N doesn’t have to equal a noun, but can equal either a verb or an adjective.

      I haven’t done a whole lot of extensive reading on the form to know what other derivatives are available – though Storm and Rebecca have both pointed out there is a snowball effect which can be used also.

      For the challenge – all you need to do is specify which equation you used… that will be enough!

      If you find any info could you either comment here or post it up to the Form and Genre group on Facebook

      I like the idea of us all working collectively to submit, rather than working against each other.

  3. There is also a snowball OULIPO where the first line is one word, the second two, etc. Or one in which each line uses progressively larger words (or successively smaller as the case may be.)

  4. Dalena says:

    Clarification question: By “write an OULIPO styled poem” this means that first we write a poem, and then use the OULIPO formula to change all the nouns… right?

    Just making sure we’re not using the OULIPO equation on an already existing poem by another author. And I presume poems we have already written in the past are also out?


    • Dalena – you don’t have to write a poem and then convert it. Part of the OULIPO philosophy was about restructuring existing literature in addition to writing their own original work.

      If you would like to use a poem you already have written – you are more than welcome to do so. Or to use someone else’s poem and apply one of the equations to it.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Eep! Actually I’m going to have to add a huge cautionary addendum to this one, as I hadn’t realised OULIPO philosophy allowed for adaptation of existing works.

    From a strict copyright point of view, I am not convinced that N+7 (or similar formula) would cross the “originality” threshold to become a derivative work, and I doubt the fair use doctrine would apply.

    To avoid this, if you are using an existing poem by another author, then please ensure that you have selected a poem in the public domain. If your source poem is one subject to copyright then we cannot publish the OULIPO version in the anthology if it were to win the Judges’ or Peoples’ Choice voting.

    It may be that a court would decide that fair use applies or that the new work constitutes derivative work which is protected by copyright itself, but I don’t really fancy having to defend that position in court if a publisher with substantially more expensive lawyers gets snippy about copyright!

    • douglas says:

      Blast. I already ‘operated’ on a text which is definitely NOT in public domain.

      Paul, I don’t fancy grabbing scalpel and dictionary again. Is there any way I can submit to this contest and just not be eligible to win? I don’t want to be a pain in the butt, but I’m proud of ‘my’ work here and don’t just want to toss it in the dustbin.

      As far as I understand it, the Oulipians were basically like the Girl Talk of poets anyways, gleefully running roughshod over the idea of language being copywritten in the first place.

      Still, I don’t want to make things complicated on y’all either.


      • I would say that so long as the piece is removed from eligibility for the contest, it should be fine. Hosting it on your own blog would render you liable if the copyright holder objected, however since you are not aiming to profit from it, then I would say that the fair use doctrine would apply.

        The only reason it wouldn’t apply for us to publish it is that money becomes involved then, and it’s no longer fair use for us to profit from it, but where there’s no money, no damage to the reputation of the original, then an established literary technique being used seems like a reasonable case of fair use that would be fine.

        • douglas says:

          Thanks for your comment, Paul.

          I’ll upload the piece to my blog on Sunday, and even enter it via Mr. Linky, but make sure the post makes things clear I’ve removed it from the consideration of the judges, readers.