Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Renga Rules: Found Poetry Oulipo

Rules for our upcoming renga, as compiled by Sneza, Janet, and HAT, a la previous discussions:

* Found poetry renga surrounding a particular conceit/subject/theme
* Theme/Subject/Conceit/Concept being idolatrous art
* Using titles and/or subtitles of poetry books, plays
* Using lines from poetry or drama
* Incorporating oulipo-type experiments

From Wikipedia on Oulipo:
Oulipo stands for "Ouvroir de littérature potentielle", which translates roughly as "workshop of potential literature". It is a loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians, and seeks to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Other notable members include novelists like Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, poets like Oskar Pastior or Jacques Roubaud, also known as a mathematician.

The group defines the term 'littérature potentielle' as (rough translation): "the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy".

Constraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration, most notably Perec's "story-making machine" which he used in the construction of Life: A User's Manual. As well as established techniques, such as lipograms (Perec's novel A Void) and palindromes, the group devises new techniques, often based on mathematical problems such as the Knight's Tour of the chess-board and permutations.

From Wikipedia on Palindromes:
In languages that use a writing system other than an alphabet, a palindrome is still a sequence of characters from that writing system that remains the same when reversed.

Japanese palindromes, called kaibun, rely on the hiragana syllabary. An example is the word しんぶんし shinbunshi (in syllables shi-n-bu-n-shi), meaning "newsprint". The Japanese syllabary makes it possible to construct very long palindromes.

A Chinese word is a character, and is not composed of letters or syllables. Therefore, any Chinese word itself is a trivial palindrome. Chinese palindromes have to be phrases or sentences and are much more easy to construct than in languages written with an alphabet. For example, the phrases "我愛媽媽,媽媽愛我" ("I love mother, mother loves me") and "上海自來水來自海上" ("Shanghai's tap water comes from the sea") are palindromes.

Palindromic poetry (回文詩) was a literary genre in classical Chinese literature. The "forward reading" and the "backward reading" of such a poem would be similar but not exactly the same in meaning. Although called "palindromic", these poems are often not palindromes in the normal English sense of the word. They do not necessarily have symmetry of characters or sound, but merely need to make sense when read in either direction. The following example was composed during the Song Dynasty:


The "forward reading" of the last sentence is about husband missing wife and father missing son, while the "backward reading" is about son missing father and wife missing husband.