The idea of failure in constraint-based writing

On March 15, 2011, we celebrated the potential of literatures through the Oulipolooza, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” (workshop of potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in 1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza included readings about the Oulipo by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Katie Price, a reception full of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of "An Oulipolooza": a collection of oulipian texts.

We asked attendees to submit their Oulipo-inspired works to "An Oulipolooza": a collection of creative and critical texts to be published as adjunct to Oulipolooza. We read participants' experiments in constraint, got introduced to procedures you've invented. We asked for lipograms and N+7s, prisoner's restrictions! We called for these thusly: “Send beautiful outlaws and all exercises in style you have!”

The video excerpt above captures a moment when a member of the audience asked about failure in such writing — how does it occur, how do we discern it? The video recording of the entire program is available here. The audio recording of the program (a downloadable mp3 file) is here. The event was organized by Sarah Arkebauer, a Penn undergraduate affiliated of the Kelly Writers House.