Oulipo in the Twenty-First Century

•May 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

download I just published a review-essay in Hyperallergic Weekend that covers three recent (and very different) books about or inspired by the Oulipo, Daniel Levin Becker’s Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Harvard University Press, 2012), Lauren Elkin and Scott Esposito’s The End of Oulipo? An Attempt to Exhaust a Movement (Zero Books, 2013), and Louis Bury’s Exercises in Criticism: The Theory and Practice of Literary Constraint (Dalkey Archive, 2014).

Here’s a brief excerpt from a later section of my piece:

“The underlying belief shared by the Oulipo and the legion of Ou-X-Pos,” says Levin Becker, “is essentially that any enterprise or discipline can be treated…as an experiment we can tweak and tinker with.” Louis Bury’s Exercises in Criticism intervenes within the discipline of literary criticism by adding Oulipian inspired and performative methods to its repertoire; the book is “an exercise in applied poetics, using constraint-based methods in order to write about literary constraint.” So in an array of short chapters Bury, for example, engages with Gilbert Sorrentino’s Gold Fools, a boy’s adventure novel consisting of only interrogative sentences, through an essay built entirely of questions. He analyzes Doug Nufer’s Never Again, a 200-word novel that, to quote Nufer’s book, uses any given word “once…then, best of all, never again” through a critical text that doesn’t repeat any words (and, thus, is compelled to “go anywhere new.”) He responds to the conceptualist gambit that reading conceptual poetry is secondary to appreciating its animating idea by writing about Kenneth Goldsmith without reading him. Such an interpretive approach, which Bury manifests in sharp, clever language, shows the “many subtle channels” between literary scholarship and creative writing. This collection of experiments consistently surprises and delights, never resorting to the mere gimmick, and lends credence to Elkin and Esposito’s point that there is cutting-edge Oulipian work being done outside of the group.

Also of interest is a new special issue on constraint by Anomalous Press.

Verbivoracious Press’ The Syllabus (2015)

•May 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment


There’s a very interesting compendium on experimental fiction now out from Verbivoracious Press. My contribution is a short appreciation of Graham Rawle’s collage novel Woman’s World (2005), which I reviewed for Hyperallergic in 2012. It looks like I’ll have much to learn from The Syllabus.

Here’s some detailed info about the collection:

A monument to our insatiable verbivoracity, The Syllabus is an act of humble genuflection before the authors responsible for those texts which have transported us to the peak of readerly nirvana and back. The texts featured, chosen in a rapturous frenzy by editors and contributors alike, represent a broad sweep of the most important exploratory fiction written in the last hundred years (and beyond). Featuring 100 texts from (fewer than) 100 contributors, The Syllabus is a form of religious creed, and should be read primarily as a holy manual from which the reader draws inspiration and hope, helping to shape their intellectual and moral life with greater awareness, and lead them towards those works that offer deep spiritual succour while surviving on a merciless and unkind planet. Readers of this festschrift should expect nothing less than an incontrovertible conversion from reader to insatiable verbivore in 226 pages.

The Syllabus, as a third volume of Verbivoracious Festschrift, is a celebration of reading. It’s a great literary feast for the true readers, for all the verbivores around the world, a feast consisting of hundred delicious meals. I am honored to be a part of that unforgettable menu.” — Dubravka Ugrešić.


A Modest Proposal — The Avignon Quintet — The Comforters — Finnegans Wake — In Partial Disgrace — Impossible Object — Wittgenstein’s Mistress — The Freelance Pallbearers — Foam of the Daze — Between — Darconville’s Cat — Thru — Terra Amata — Poor Things — Pack of Lies — Amalgamemnon — Anonymous Celebrity — The Stain — Palinuro of Mexico — Miss Herbert — Tristram Shandy — The Mezzanine — White Noise — Glyph — The Twits — Woodcutters — Erowina — Chromos — A Day at the Office — Darkmans — The Evadne Mount Trilogy — Mobile — An Attempt to Exhaust a Place in Paris — The Trick is to Keep Breathing — The Great Fire of London — Thank You For Not Reading — Exercises in Style — Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books — B.S. Johnson Omnibus — Six Memos for the Next Millennium — Sixty Stories — Requiem — Mrs Caldwell Speaks to Her Son — The Atrocity Exhibition — Walking to Hollywood — At Swim-Two-Birds — Only Joking — Dot in the Universe — Eco: On Literature — Dictionary of the Khazars — The Novel: An Alternate History — Varieties of Disturbance — Mr. Dynamite — The Blue Flowers — Portrait of the Artist as a Domesticated Animal — The Tunnel — Oulipo Compendium — In Form: Digressions in the Art of Fiction — Take it or Leave it — If on a winter’s night a traveller — The Information — Double or Nothing — The Hypocritic Days — Berg — 2666 — The Inquisitory — Woman’s World — Museum of Eterna’s Novel — The Blaze of Noon — Musrum — Island People — Take Five — Death on Credit — Three Trapped Tigers — Cain’s Book — Invisible Cities — Out of Sheer Rage — Log of the S.S. Mrs Unguentine — The Room — Revenge of the Moon Vixen — Mulligan Stew — Ice — Red the Fiend — Urmuz: Complete Works — Ada — Taitlin! — Celebrations — The Figure on the Boundary Line — City Silver Sister — Nazi Literature in the Americas — The Emigrants — Other Stories and Other Stories — The Third Policeman — Antonello’s Lion — Cloud Atlas — Imaginary Women — The Museum of Unconditional Surrender — Eden Eden Eden — Quiet Days in Clichy


Scott Beauchamp — Kim Fay — Igo Wodan — Fionnuala McManamon — Eric Lundgren — Shiva Rahbaran — Joseph McGrath — Tosh Berman — Katarzyna Bartoszyńska — David Detrich — Ellen Friedman — Steven Moore — Keith Moser — Rodge Glass — Michelle Ryan-Santour — Jack Ross — Silvia Barlaam — Tom Conoboy — Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado — M.J. Nicholls — Barbara Melville — Nate Dorr — Sam Moss — Kinga Burger — Manny Rayner — John Trefry — Lauren Elkin — Gillian Devine —Ian Monk — Peter Blundell — Ana Stanojevic — Geoff Wilt — Nicolas Tredell — Daniel Levin Becker — Lee Klein — Lance Olsen — Trevor Dodge — Rosalyn Drexler — Rick McGrath — Richard Strachan — Edwin Turner — Ali Millar — Alec Nevala-Lee — Nathan Gaddis — Alberta Rigid — Jarleth L. Prenderghast —Inez Hedges — Juliet Jacques — H.L. Hix — Jason Graff — Tom Willard — Steve Katz — Anthony Vacca — Ammiel Alcalay — Lee Rourke — Alex Cox — Michael Leong — Eric Byrd — Steve Penkevich — Kenneth Cox — Gene Hayworth — Paul John Adams — Pablo Medina — Gill Tasker — Kathleen Heil — Georgina Holland — Stephen Sparks — Anonymous — Melanie Ho — Jenny Offill — Kristine Rabberman — Eddie Watkins — Rob Friel — Joseph Andrew Darlington — Alex Zucker — Ben Winch — Alex Johnston — W.C. Bamberger — Stephen Mirabito — Michael Westlake — Peter Bebergal — Jasmina Lukić — Nadine Mainard — G.N. Forester

Release Date: May 11th, 2015. ISBN: 9789810935931. 237pp. Available from all booksellers and usual online retailers.

Pricing Information:

Paperback: GBP9.99 + postage GBP2.00 within UK, US, AU, CAN, EU, ZA, NZ, IN and SG.

Rest of world please order via sales@verbivoraciouspress.org for alternative shipping costs. Orders received via sales@verbivoraciouspress.org (after confirmation of payment) enjoy a thirty (30) per cent discount on paperback prices (not including shipping costs).

Li Po Meets Oulipo (Belladonna*, 2015)

•April 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Li Po Meets Oulipo

Thanks to the great people at the Belladonna* Collaborative for publishing my latest chapbook, Li Po Meets Oulipo, which is #177 in the Belladonna* Chaplet Series. Here’s my introduction to the chap:

Li Po (701-762), also known as Li T’ai-po or Li Bai, is one of the most renowned poets of the High T’ang period, the so-called Golden Age of Chinese poetry.  Translated by such illustrious poets as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and William Carlos Williams, Li Po’s writing—however mediated and refracted—exerted a considerable influence on American modernist poetics, and the early twentieth-century reception of his poetry helped pave the way for Imagism’s anti-decorative compression and minimalism.  Yet how much do we really know about Li Po and his work?  According to translator David Hinton, Li Po is “as much unknown as known, as much legend as history.”  Out of the several thousand poems that Li Po supposedly authored, only about a thousand remain and many of the extant poems are of questionable authenticity.  In the face of such loss and uncertainty, Hinton suggests that we, in fact, “re-embody the legend that Li Po is…even if that legend has little to do with historical fact.”  “Li Po Meets Oulipo” explores other forms that this re-embodiment might take by appropriating translations of Li Po’s surviving writings by using a range of Oulipian procedures.  If, as Michel Foucault provocatively stated, “the author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning,” then legend, by contrast, is a privileged conduit for proliferating significations.  I wish to bring together the poetry of Li Po and the procedural ingenuity of Oulipo to create a provocative proliferation of meanings that can stand in—however incongruously—for the enormous amount of Li Po’s writings that have been lost.  The Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature potentielle [Workshop of Potential Literature]) is a neo-avant-garde group founded in 1960 by former surrealist Raymond Queneau and mathematician, engineer, and pataphysician François Le Lionnais.  Oulipo members included such luminaries as Marcel Duchamp, Italo Calvino, and Georges Perec.  As a conglomeration of mathematicians and writers, the still-active Oulipo group is interested in both theorizing and engineering literary forms based on extreme restrictions and rule-bound procedures.  For example, the basic algorithm “N + 7”—perhaps the most famous of all Oulipian constraints—involves replacing each noun of a source poem with the seventh subsequent noun in a specified dictionary.  What follows are the results of my experimentation with N + 7 along with eight other constraints, part of my ongoing search of how one text can lead (in)directly to the next.  Queneau famously described Oulipians as “rats who build the labyrinth from which they will try to escape.”  This chapbook begins and ends in the labyrinth for it is, to quote Chinese fabulist Can Xue (who has written a book on Calvino), “an experiment without an escape route.”

Samples from this project have been published in Drunken Boat and Silenced Press.

April 2nd, 7pm: BELLADONNA/AAWW READING with Betsy Fagin, Cathy Park Hong, Michael Leong, and Dorothy Tse

•March 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Asian American Writers’ Workshop. October 24, 2013.


I’m excited to return to the AAWW for a reading next week with some great writers.  I’m also looking forward to reading from a brand new project (for a sneak peek–an excerpt of it is on the Silenced Press website).

Thursday, April 2, 2015 7:00pm
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop
110-112 W. 27th Street, Ste. 600
New York, NY 10001

We join forces with feminist poetry collective Belladonna for a night of surrealist and experimental writing by Betsy Fagin, Cathy Park Hong, Michael Leong, and Dorothy Tse, who is visiting from Hong Kong. Founded at Bluestockings in 1999, Belladonna has showcased over 200 writers internationally, who all share an intense desire to be as “dangerous with language” as possible. We’ll have specially produced Belladonna chaplets of work by Michael Leong for sale at the event!

Poet Cathy Park Hong–an early fellowship recipient from AAWW–most recently published the essay “Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde,” an explosive essay that called out the experimental poetry establishment for racially discriminatory practices. She’s the author of Engine Empire, a poetic guide through the fictionalized boomtowns of the Californian old west, present-day industrialized China, and the digital future. David Mitchell deemed it “a brainy, glinting triptych about what powers ‘progress,’ what its human costs are, and where it might be taking our species.” ★ Dorothy Tse’s short story collection Snow and Shadow re-imagines Hong Kong as an eerily captivating dreamscape, where limbs are chopped off and used as currency and the forests are patrolled by dwarves. As Dorothy writes, “Like the city itself, the language of Hong Kong writers should be described as floating as well, a language that is in-between. It is dangerous to hang in the sky, yet it is this dangerous situation that makes the miracle of the city, as well as its literature, possible.” (Read her poem in our Hong Kong protest poetry portfolio.) ★ Michael Leong’s most recent book Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions 2012) is a daring and playful work of visual collage and conceptual poetry that remixes T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” with images from the Periodic Table. He edited our Visual Poetry portfolio here. ★ Poet Betsy Fagin served as the Librarian for the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street through the consensus of the New York City General Assembly. She’s the author of several books and chapbooks including rosemary stretch (dusie, 2006), which is available online, and All is not yet lost, which Brenda Coulras calls “a luminous love letter to revolution, of resistance to a slow death in capitalism’s arms… this book is a song for office and kitchen workers as well as a challenge to the powers that be.”

Save a seat here!


Grist 8

•March 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment


The new (and beautiful looking) issue of Grist is now out in the world. My contribution is “The Poem and Mis-en-page,” a craft of poetry essay which argues that in the composition of poetry mise-en-page can be just as crucial as more conventional concerns such as rhythm, rhetoric, and subject matter. Relevant examples of expressive spacing and typography come from such diverse poets as Nathaniel Mackey, David Antin, Bob Kaufman, Ronald Johnson, Stephen Crane, and Estela Lamat. This essay also examines what happens to the meaning of texts which rely on unconventional spatial arrangements when they are digitized for databases such as Proquest’s Literature Online (LION). Thanks to editors for their suggestions and professionalism.

Fruits and Flowers and Animals and Seas And Lands Do Open

•March 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment














Thanks so much to Sid Miller at the Burnside Review and to Rory Sparks for the exquisite work on the cover.  Much gratitude to Hannah Gamble for appreciating the work and for the very gracious and sensitive blurb.  Finally, thanks to Jenni B. Baker at the Found Poetry Review, whose “Pulitzer Remix” project provided the impetus for the writing of this.

The title of the chapbook (which was written during April 2013) comes from a phrase attributed to Verrius Flaccus, who supposedly thought “April” came from aperire, “to open,” since in it, as he noted in the Fasti Praenestini, “fruits and flowers and animals and seas and lands do open.”

Fruits and Flowers and Animals and Seas And Land Do Open
by Michael Leong

Winner of the 2014 Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. Chosen by Hannah Gamble.

“Michael Leong’s vocabulary is totally stuffed/ multiplying in mirrors/ scattered over hillsides/ bubbling right over the top, and he’s going to give it all to you—he’s generous. He’s generous and funny and a little troubled—and “a little troubled” is, of course, the most logical and authentic response we could hope for anyone who’s examining life and poetry and personhood and artist-ness. This book is so enjoyable—like I said, giving and funny, but also very unlike anything I’ve read lately. It promptly wins the reader over.”

-Hannah Gamble

Michael Leong is the author of two books of poetry: e.s.p. (Silenced Press, 2009) and Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions, 2012). He has also written numerous other chapbooks including The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-Composition as Explanation: A Poe and Stein Mash-Up (Delete Press, 2011), which won an &NOW Award, and Words on Edge (2012), which won the 9th annual Plan B Press Poetry Chapbook Contest. An additional chapbook is soon forthcoming from Belladonna*. He has taught literature and creative writing at Rutgers University and Goddard College and will join the English Department at the University at Albany, SUNY as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2015

Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry

•March 4, 2015 • 2 Comments

Christine Wong Yap. Untitled (one half gallon), 2006, paper, 8 x 8 x 1 inches / 20 x 20 x 2.5 cm.


The folio “Lines of Sight: Visual Art in Asian American Poetry,” which I guest edited for The Margins, has just been published. There’s some really outstanding work featured by the artists and poets below alongside beautiful and provocative images. While I sought to bring together a lot of previously published work, the folio contains some brand new writing.

Christine Wong Yap

Debora Kuan
“How to Take Black-and-White Pictures” | “How to Make Bells” | “Pastoral” | “TV Room”

Eileen Tabios
“Athena’s Diptych”

Jennifer Hayashida
“On Peter Saul (Laughter)”

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge
“I Love Artists”

Shin Yu Pai
“Lunch Poem” | “After Toshiko Takaezu” | “Dear Juan” | “the great figure” | “prime”

Walter K. Lew and O Woomi Chung
“Moss” | “The RV Projects”

John Yau
“Further Adventures in Monochrome”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers