5 Oulipo Constraints
Oulipo, or Workshop of Potential Literature, is a group of writers and thinkers interested in the notion of “constraint”.
You can think of constraint as something like the rules of a generative writing game. For example, the rules of the sonnet game result in the creation of a sonnet. The rules of the short story game result in the creation of a short story. Are there other rules? New games? New things to create? By asking those questions, the Oulipo has become a workshop of potential literature.
Here are five constraints you can try.
1. The Oulipo Keyboard
Like a prepared piano, an oulipo keyboard is modified in some way. Perhaps the vowels are changed to create words that are pronounced differently.
2. The N+7 Method
Replace every noun in the text with a word that falls 7 places ahead of it in the dictionary. If it’s too time-consuming to use an analogue dictionary, try the N+7 Machine instead.
3. The Prisoner’s Constraint
Exclude any of the letters with “legs”: b, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, p, q, t, and y.
4. The Metro Poem
A metro poem has as many verses as your trip has stations, minus one.
5. The Snowball Method
The text builds in length as it progresses , like a snowball gathering mass while it rolls downhill. Start with a first line or sentence of one word, and add one word to each new line or sentence.