On Constraints, or All Tied Up

Copy of DSC01318

I’m using Oulipian constraints for a poem I’m submitting to a journal. The poem must use only letters that are found in this sentence in Pilipino (Tagalog): Sinunod ko nang walang-labis, walang-kulang ang iyong utos (I carried out your orders to the letter [not an exact translation, but I’m hoping the poem will be able address that difference]). So the poem, which must be a list poem, written in English, must not contain: e, r, h, p, z, m, c, q, j. A poem in English constrained, to some extent, by a Philippine language using Western letters. We can (and probably will) place further limitations in the future, but this will do for now. For someone who normally employs as few constraints as possible in writing, this is a challenge. The lack of an e omits many pronouns, and an important article, “the.” Of course, the idea that one can write free-of-form is an illusion, an impossibility. If nothing else, the medium applies the constraint, especially if you write poems online, as I have often done; and then there’s the language itself. And the time constraint: due in a couple of days. So far, this little project hasn’t been easy, in fact it’s been damn hard — although not unpleasant; but perhaps that’s the point.

This post is part of the thread: poetry – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.