A Provisional Statement of Poetics

In 2015, in a review-essay about three books engaged with the Oulipo, I wrote,

The Oulipo, short for the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Workshop for potential literature), was founded in Paris in 1960 by two polymaths: Raymond Queneau, a former surrealist known for writing Zazie in the Metro, and François Le Lionnais, a mathematician and engineer. Interdisciplinary in nature, the Oulipo came to embrace a rigorous formalism, insisting that literary freedom could be unleashed not through the energies of chance, the unconscious, or automatic writing (à la surrealism) but, paradoxically, through rule-bound procedures, severe formal restrictions, and mathematical constraints. Oulipians follow the cunning design of Daedalus rather than the irrational urges of the Minotaur; as Queneau famously said, they are ‘rats who construct the labyrinth from which they plan to escape.’

My poetry, then, strives for a rigorously designed Daedalean construction that, at any moment, risks collapsing from the overwhelming roars of the Minotaur.

~ by Michael Leong on May 23, 2018.

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