In February, we’ll be partnering with the Arts Council of Carteret County to bring the literary arts to Art from the Heart, a popular, annual arts event. On February 4, Carteret Writers members are invited for a free, private viewing of the artwork on display to prepare for the Ekphrastic Contest we’re hosting as part of the event. Submissions will be due on February 8. Board Advisor Jan B. Parker, a local artist, editor, and author, was generous enough to provide some information on the oulipo writing technique to offer pointers on writing your own short-form ekphrastic prose response. Thank you, Jan, for sharing your insights.

Oulipo is a literary movement which began in France in 1960, exploring the algorithmic possibilities of literature and the concrete nature of language. In simple words, Oulipo imposes constraints on writing—frames if you will—that can help the writer gain exacting language and achieve increased level of skill. Here are a few Oulipo challenges for all our prose-writing members:

  • Write a three-act story in the space of a postcard
  • Write a 50-word complete sentence
  • Write 1-page, stream of consciousness, describing your favorite work of art
  • Write 1/2-page describing something you love without naming that thing
  • Write a thank you note with your non-dominant hand

Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, put it this way, “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit… the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution.”