Another busy (busy!) day at the archive!  Today was workshop-packed.  This morning I ran a workshop on Surrealist Games for the undergraduate creative writing students here at UCA (creative writing and journalism + creative writing and media students) between 10.30am-1pm, then there was a quick break for lunch, and in the afternoon I introduced the same group to a range of experimental writing techniques in a session from 2pm until 4pm.  The students were fantastic; given that it was a long day, they maintained their energy and enthusiasm throughout, and produced some really interesting work.  They’re a talented bunch, and I look forward to hearing about what they get up to for the rest of the year. From my point of view it was also great to see some of the games being played in a number of groups of students simultaneously…


                                      Students thinking of their next line for a variation of Exquisite Corpse

…there’s so much more to say today (and so little time), so I think I’m going to have to expand this post tomorrow (hopefully by then I should have a few photos to put up today, too).  In short, though, it’s been a totally exhilarating day, and I can’t help but think that the minute I get back to the hotel I’ll sit down to continue writing and experimenting with text…

Raymond Queneau, Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes [continued] …I wish that the image above was of a work of mine (not least because then I’d be Francophonic, presumably), but sadly not – it’s the wonderful, die-cut 1961 publication of Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes [One Hundred Thousand Million Poems].  I brought my copy in to show students this afternoon as we were doing a whole range of writing exercises that were inspired by similar ‘combinatory’ systems.  Every line of the ten sonnets in Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes can be moved individually, allowing the reader to choose to expose any of the lines underneath it.  By selecting lines in this way, the reader ‘constructs’ one iteration of all of the possible combinations of lines.  And yet, in that one poem – indeed, in any one of the sonnets – there are 99,999,999,999,999 potential other sonnets.  For, in total, the fourteen lines can indeed be combined in 10^14 (one hundred thousand million) different ways. This concept of ‘potential literature’ is very much at the heart of Oulipians’ creative (and, moreover, scientific) endeavours.  It’s a tricky one to explain, sometimes….so thanks are due to my lovely die-cut book for helping me out (Tree of Codes and The Unfortunates, both of whom were in attendance, should also get a special mention)!   Many of the students responded really well to the constraints and systems that the games and exercises we played placed upon them as they wrote, and even described them as a form of liberation; others felt that they felt that they placed too much pressure on writing and the writer.  I’d anticipated a divide of this sort, so it was very interesting to see things pan out.  Above all, though, I was delighted with the willingness of the students to enthusiastically give things a go. The surrealist games ‘won’ the day (just), as many students like the fact that they were very playful and a imaginative.  Quarrel in a Compass (a game that was originally placed by some of the Czech-Slovak surrealist group and their Swiss peers in 1981) was particularly popular.  To the best of my knowledge, it has only ever been played twice before, so it was lovely to bring it back to life. I’d pre-prepared all kinds of materials for the games in order to help them run smoothly, which in itself was an interesting design challenge.  Surrealist toolkits available, roll up!  roll up! (contents may vary significantly from those undescribed…)


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