Oulipoems is a website that has works presented these range from poems, poetry games, tools for writing poetry. Inspired by the Oulipo moment, a French literary movement which combines writing and mathematics. Works of literature that are governed by rules (“constraints”). E.G words might have to contain only vowel E or words might be spelled phonetically. Members of the Ouliopo interests include algorithmically generated texts, including, text-generating machines which can result in an infinite, or at least very large, number of different texts.

One famous Oulipo book is Raymond Queneau’s Exercises de Style, which is a retelling of a very banal anecdote in many different styles and following many different constraints. The computer is central to the piece instead of having several static versions of the text; the text varies along two dimensions, controlled by the position of the mouse pointer in a coloured square.

The mathematical idea behind this is the notion of a vector space, which each point (text) has a coordinate representing each basis vector  thus version of the text, or dimension along which the text can change.

Some of the other pieces also involve modifying a text via a specialized user interface, to generate either a small or large number of possible texts. In “No War,” the text is on the soundtrack instead of in print. The mouse pointer position triggers a series of words in which each word has the same vowel sound but the order of the words is random. Some mouse positions also generate sound effects relating to war. The mathematics here is the idea of a random generator. The constraint that each word in a particular series must share a vowel sound is a typical Oulipo rule.”Sundays in the Park” also involves variations on a text the number of texts that it is possible to generate is very large.

The text as a whole has no definite meaning, but each group of words suggests the next by a process of punning or association. The groups can be displayed in several different ways, involving phonetic re-spellings, and the user cycles through the possibilities for each group by clicking on it. Phonetic spelling is an Oulipo procedure which was used in Queneau’s book.

The mathematics here is the combinatory which tell you how many possible texts can be generated by this “text machine.” The number of possibilities for each group ranges from 2 to 6, and there are 33 groups

“Headline News” introduces a new level of complexity. This piece is an analogue of the Rubik’s cube, only it is presented in two dimensions. The puzzle is in the form of a grid in which the user can rotate the rows and columns independently to rearrange the texts. The piece can be used to compose texts that one is interested in or it can be viewed as a mathematical puzzle in which the goal is to restore the initial configuration. There is a lot of math in this piece the game board is topologically a torus Secondly, there is also a lot of group theory in this puzzle.

Each position can be seen as a permutation on all the squares. The number of times you must repeat the move for this to happen is called the order of the move. Since each column has 8 elements, the move which rotates a column by one square has order 8. Likewise, the move rotating a row by one square has order 10. More complicated moves may have either smaller or bigger orders, depending on the move. The texts themselves are alliterative another constraint in the Oulipo sense.

“Poggle” returns us to the realm of easier games. Poggle is a version of the game Boggle, but the tiles have fragments of poetry on them instead of single letters. Like Boggle, the player has a time limit in which to select as many series of adjacent tiles as possible. But here, the goal is to create a good poem, not to score points.

Finally with “The Electronic Muse,” we are in the range of almost infinite possibilities. This program generates lines of poetry using the vocabularies of one of six different poets. The algorithm to generate the lines is based on the linguistics theory of Phrase Structure Grammar (developed by Chomsky). “The Electronic Muse” is a writing tool and not just a text generator, because the user can interact with it by editing the texts it generates. The user can also add words to the program’s vocabulary. This piece is mathematical because of its use of maths linguistics. The texts it generates follow constraints since they use limited vocabularies and are generated according to rules.


oulipo (Fr. Ouvroir de Litterature   Potentielle = Workshop for Potential Literature) 1 a French literary   movement involving Raymond Queneau, Jacques Roubaud, Italo Calvino, and   others 2 a combination of mathematics and poetry 3 texts   generated using constraints or rules