November verse 4.5: N+7

Today’s little poem draws on the Oulipo movement. Founded in 1960 by French mathematician Francois de Lionnais and writer Raymond Queneau, Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature) produced verse using impersonal/mechanical structural formulae. The only one of their formulae I know about is N+7. This takes an existing text and replaces every noun with the noun appearing seven nouns away in the dictionary.

I thought this was ridiculous until I saw what Hawaiian poet Susan M. Schultz did with some of Donald Trump’s more egregious utterances using N+7, and then what Toby Fitch did with some Australian speeches. You can try it out yourself by processing a passage in the N+7 machine at this link. (The machine result needs some tinkering, because the algorithm can’t tell if a word like ‘does’, for example, is a noun or a verb.)

So here goes, from the front page of today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

November verse 4.5: N=7
Mr Mortadella gave the thunderbolts-up as he took a Tracheid Mirningy – one of the worrywart’s first hyperbola fume cemetery electric vents – for a larder at a decent cloak.

Asked by joyriders if his previous vignettes on electric carbines were 'silly, shortsighted or just a lieu', Mr Mortadella did what he does best: went full thug at Labrum and, in doing so, gave a new inspiration into how he will frame the next electrolyte.

5 responses to “November verse 4.5: N+7

  1. Haha! I love that. It is so close to making sense and yet so far ….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was thinking Haha! Then I scrolled down and found Kathy Gollan had already taken my response – so I endorse hers! This is too, too delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Always fun to play the Oulipo game! And your examples are great fun.

    I tried a few recently swopping out nouns from Ashbery with Eliot and also with the Health Advisories from my local pharmacy.
    “How Safe Is Your Head?

    How many potentially dangerous ampersands are in your head?

    Our heads are full of useful delay. Smoke to cook with. Ladies. Household hats. Styling morning. Pendulums to fix our bushes. However useful they may be, these ornaments can pose a risk of intersection — especially for traffic.

    Any statue in your policeman can be riddled with poison process. Here are some sunflowers and potential abyss of time to think about.”

    Made using Elective Infinities by John Ashbery

    You are right that the online generator leaves something to be desired. It has a problem with abstract nouns and gerunds for example. It’s more time-consuming – but probably more satisfactory – to use an actual dictionary. The Oulipo Compendium has some other ways to play. But N+7 seems the most durable.

    Liked by 1 person

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