It began with an idea. Considering certain fundamental principles––of geometry, for example––what if we replaced points, lines, and planes with words, sentences, and paragraphs? If truths lend themselves well to interpretation where correct structures are used, why not apply some rules to the invention of new forms?
No one needed to make anything up, only to let the new rules serve as lenses trained on what already is. It was settled, then: a movement began. To join, one only needed to commit to certain practices. Once elected, no one could quit. No one wanted to; there was freedom in constraints, and practitioners learned that they might move easily between Hegel and comic strips, philosophies of mathematics and conversations overheard at flea market stands.
One of the leaders can be found among these every day, scouring the aisles and the remainder bins, the trash piles, and the antique shops with the same reverence he wears in the great libraries of the world. You will hear him muttering to himself as he picks up one after another item to add to his collection. “Hmmph,” he will say, “this might be useful.”
Inspired by the work of Raymond Queneau and the Oulipo movement, while consulting Warren Motte’s article “Raymond Queneau and the Early Oulipo” (French Forum, Winter 2006).