Millie Niss with Martha Deed


A playful series of pieces combines some concepts of combinatorial literature, as developed by the Oulipo in France, but with political commentary and local description specific to the United States. Oulipoems provides an array of text-machines, each different, which are each easy to operate and which reward play.

Begin >

Author description: Oulipoems is a series of six interactive poetry Flash works, ranging from electronic poems, to games, to a tool for generating and writing poetry using the vocabulary of a variety of poets. The pieces are loosely based on the Oulipo movement in French literature, which focused on texts based on constraints (for instance, Perec's famous novel A Void, a lipogram in which the letter e does not appear) and also on mixtures of literature and mathematics. The six works are (1) "Sundays in the Park," a user-modifiable nonsense poem with a political tone; (2) "Morningside Vector Space," a text which comes in several versions and which can be adjusted to display mixtures of the versions, based on Queneau's Exercises de Style but set in New York's Morningside Heights; (3) "No War," an interactive sound poem about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, using phonetic constraints; (4) "Headline News," a Rubik's cube-like game which allows users to compose poetry fragments or try to restore the original configuration, using sound (alliteration) constraints and political humor; (5) "Poggle," a poetry version of the word game Boggle (there is a version of this poem on sporkworld.org which allows new tiles, poetry fragments, to be permanently added); and (6) "The Electronic Muse," a "poetry processor" which generates random sentences using the vocabulary of various poets, allowing users to add their own lines and edit the result into a poem that is a collaboration between computer, user, and the poets whose vocabularies were mined. In addition to the six works, the menu page has a small visual/sound work based on the word "Oulipo."

Instructions: To hear the sound, turn on the computer's speakers or plug in headphones. An introduction is provided to explain the poems; also, each of the poems provides appropriate instructions on screen.

Previous publication: Oulipoems was published on The Iowa Review Web, September 2004. The piece is also available on Niss's site, http://www.sporkworld.org/. The Sporkworld version features an enhanced version of Poggle.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

This Flash work has been emulated with Conifer by the Electronic Literature Lab in January 2021. To view this emulation click here.