In June I gave a seminar about Oulipo and the dis•articulations process as a “liberating constriction” in the spirit of Oulipo during the Residency for the MFA Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles. The participants generated four prompts and conducted fevered writing on the prompts. There wasn’t time to have them write the poems but I encouraged them to do so and send them to me. What appears here are the prompts and two poems by Antioch MFA students, as well as the poem I created from the prompts.
The Prompts (generated by seminar participants)
• It started as a mistake
• I’d rather eat a person than my words
• Nothing like the sun
• Sex is to love as the dancer is to the dance
NOTHING LIKE THE SUN
by Chris Shorne
Feverish we start
like a simultaneous translator
holding history while writing
the history while thinking of
writing what will be past tense.
Are we starting?
The buzzing so complete
so modern that modern was
crawling last year
The mistake started
before you were born.
Outside the town of wedlock
fire is electric.
I mean, like, I don’t know everything
like God that’s not God
DROPS OF CONVERSATIONS
by Natalie Truhan
The sun is nowhere to be seen;
the fog ate the mountains.
Have you ever heard teenage girls talk about self-respect?
wearing white jackets, bitching.
small words are uttered by God,
these words are learned by sinners,
sinners who take off,
not interested in birth.
Ever wondered what saints eat for dinner?
I ate a man once (my mistake!)
for dessert (what a chance!)
were rolling on my tongue like drops of a conversation.
grow like mushrooms.
His hips formed creases,
oddness and obscurity
of the hairless mountains
hiding in the fog:
freeways will never touch them.
Let’s begin, let’s finish, let’s leave.
Give me the keys, I need to pee.
to never find your way home.
THE CHURCH OF FAILURE
by Terry Wolverton
Like everyone, I come to
the Church of Failure denying
everything, my tongue on fire,
my hat thrown open to the rain.
I sneak in, dragging after me
a chain of mistakes—lost buttons,
white shirts spotted with mud—
gummy with solitary sex.
Surrounded by saints and babies,
I taste the iron of the bells
that chime long into our frayed day,
sway a tired cha-cha as they play.
I offer evidence—chance and
accidents—cast them into ash
like seeds, spill them onto the street.
Busses keep passing by, don’t stop.
Like anyone, I am searching for
redemption, a way to transform
the shape of time. Each of us just
broken dolls, chanting the old words.
Don’t pity me. I can’t un-crack
the tough shell of my soul. Rather,
breathe with me, here in the corner,
holding onto the sun’s spent flame.