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Constrained Writing in the Twenty-First Century : Exploring Creativity Through a Poetic Lens Grant, Emily 2012-04

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Constrained Writing in the Twenty-First Century: Exploring Creativity Through a Poetic Lens by Emily Grant B.Ed , University of British Columbia, 2006 B.A, University of Victoria, 2005 A Thesis Submitted in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education in The Faculty of Graduation Studies (In literacy Education) The University of British Columbia {Vancouver} April 2012 © Emily Grant, 2012 Table of Contents 1.0 Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 3 1.1 Prescribed Learning Outcomes ....................................................................................... 3 1.2 Background and Context of Constrained Writing ........................................................... 4 1.3 Examples of Published Texts ........................................................................................... 6 2.0 Methodology .............. ............................................................ ........ ..... .. .............................. 8 2.1 Visual Constraints .. ............ .......... .... .... .... ................... .. ....... ......................................... 12 2.2 Prisoner's Constraint ................................................................................................. 12 2.3 Letter Alignment ................................... ... ......... .... .... ................ .. .............................. 13 2.4 The Snowball ............................................................................................................. 15 2.5 Braille ........................................................................................................................ 17 2.6 International Phonetic Alphabet ............................................................. ................. 18 2.6 Letter Sequencing and Spelling Patterns ...................................................................... 19 2.7 Univocalic .................................................................................................................. 20 2.8 Double Letters ........................................................................................................... 21 2.9 Aphaeresis ................................................................................................................. 22 2.10 Syncope ..................................................................................................................... 22 2.11 Elision ................. ................ ..... .......................... .......... .. ..... ......................... ........... ... 23 2.12 Technological Constraints ................ ... .. .. .......... .. ........................ ..................... .. .. ..... 23 2.13 Keyboard Input ................ ....... .................................................................................. 24 2.14 Auditory Constraints ..................................................................................................... 25 2.15 Diphtong ................................................................................................................ 25 2.16 Bilabial ............ ......... ...................... ............................................................................ 26 2.17 Cacophony ................................................................................................................ 26 2.18 Long Vowel Vs Short Vowel Sounds .......................................................................... 27 2.19 Grammatical Constraints ....................................................................... .......... ............. 32 2.20 Passive Voice ............................................................................................................. 32 2.21 Sentences Without Verbs .................................................... ..................................... 33 2.22 Specific Verb Tense ................................................................................................... 33 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 4.0 Applications and Implications of Constrained Writing ..................................................... 35 From One Language to Another ....... ............... ...... .. ... .. ................................................ 37 Free Writing as Compared to Constrained Writing ................................... ................... 41 Constraints as Transformational ............................................ .............................. .. ....... 42 Writing and Reading ..................................... .............................................. ........ .......... 43 Bibliography ...... ............................................................. ............... .. .................................. 45 2 1.0 Introduction It is the intention of this essay to discuss the ways in which constrained, creative writing improves students' overall understanding of the target language, and how Oulipian-based constrained writing ameliorates their writing output in other target language-based writing activities. To clarify this correlation, it is imperative to first provide a denotation of both constrained writing, and of an Oulipian constraint. While the field of constrained writing is, relatively speaking, still in infancy, the volume of suggested constraints is too extensive to synthesize appropriately in one text; this essay will focus on three categories of constraint: constraints pertaining to, or creating a visual effect, letter sequencing, and exophonic writing. In this way, connections will be drawn to support the necessity of implementing a more rigorous and methodical approach to integrating constrained writing into the language classroom. This essay will study the ways in which constrained writing supports non-native speakers, improves overall language abilities, and provides a creative experience for students, in which they are free to experiment with form, in addition to content. Finally, this essay will attempt to highlight the various educational implications and applications of creative writing, in the context of language classrooms in secondary schools in British Columbia. 1.1 Prescribed Learning Outcomes While creative writing has not traditionally been an academic discipline, l it is certainly gaining in popularity. Some universities offer undergraduate courses on creative writing, while others offer post-graduate level instruction 2 on the topic of creative writing. When examining the Prescribed learning Outcomes of British Columbia for English language Arts 8, under Writing and Representing, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that one of the PlO's speaks directly to students' creative side: "(3: write effective imaginative texts to explore ideas and information to 1) make connections and develop insights, 2) explore literary forms and techniques, 3) experiment with language and style, 4) engage and entertain.',3 "Write creative texts that consider audience and purpose.,,4 The Grade 10 English Prescribed learning Outcomes provide a similar stipulation, for Writing and Representing: "(13 use and experiment with elements of form in writing and representing, appropriate to purpose and audience, to enhance meaning and artistry, including - organization of ideas and information - text features and visual/artistic devices"s 1 Bizarro, Patrick, Research and Reflection in English Studies: The Special Case of Creative Writing Source, College English, 2004, 66, 3, 294-209, National Council of Teachers of English, p 295 2 Such as the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, Concordia University, and the University of Toronto 3 http://www.bced _ 812_ 8.pdf 4 1bid 5 http://www.bced rp/pdfs/english_language_arts/2007ela_ 812_11. pdf 3 The Grade 11 English Prescribed Learning Outcomes also require a comparable skill from students, for Writing and Representing: "C12 use and experiment with elements of style in writing and representing, appropriate to purpose and audience, to enhance meaning and artistry, including 1) syntax and sentence fluency, 2) diction, 3) point of view, 4) literary devices, 5) visual/artistic devices"6 Interestingly, while it seems that the Ministry of Education, teachers, administrators, and student support workers are on board with teaching creative writing, it has not always been clear what exactly to teach when teaching creative writing. 7 While it is not the intention of this essay to revolutionize pedagogy, it is the intention of this essay to challenge creative writing instruction, by proposing that constrained creative writing be incorporated into creative writing education. Perhaps it is now appropriate to begin with a brief introduction to the background of constrained writing as demonstrated by Oulipo. 1.2 Background and Context of Constrained Writing "Procedural poetics tasks writers with fresh and exciting challenges by providing, sometimes prescribing, a map of operations to follow. Like following a map's projections of space through the personal experience of travel, procedural poetics, no matter how constrained to a routine of operations ... unfolds as a human journeying through language.,,8 Constrained writing is "a literary technique in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern".9 If we understand this definition in the most literal, most liberal sense of interpretation, then most forms of writing would constitute a constraint. A perfect example to illustrate this would be a sonnet (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, Occitan, etc) - a sonnet is a constraintlO• Incorporating a highly regimented rhyme scheme, while demanding syllable requirements, a sonnet constitutes a perfect historical example of constrained writing. Originating from an entirely different part of the world - the haiku - embodies constraint; the poet is faced with syllabic limitations, and originally, content as well. ll Yet would most teachers believe that they are teaching constrained writing when introducing the haiku or the sonnet? This much is debatable. In the context of our classrooms in the 21st century, the term 'constraint' connotes an entirely different experience. For the purpose of this essay, it will be easiest and most practical to define a 'constraint' as anything that would appear in an Oulipo text or list of suggested Oulipo constraints. While there are different poetic movements, and various poetic limitations 6 7 Bizarro, Patrick, Research and Reflection in English Studies: The Special Case of Creative Writing Source, College English, 2004, 66, 3, 294-209, National Council of Teachers of English, 296 8 James, Could be Inquiry, page 1 9 http://en . writing 10 Symes, C. (1999). Writing by numbers: OuLiPo and the creativity of constraints. Mosaic : A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 32(3), 1 11 While students today can write a haiku on almost any subject matter that they wish, it would have been traditional practice to write on things such as nature, beauty, and the seasons. 4 that one can impose upon a text, the leading body in the world of poetic constraint is that of the OuLiPo. To creative writers in the 1960's, Oulipo was something fresh and vibrant, embodying constrained writing, incorporating both poetry and prose. Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle - a workshop for potential literature) was founded in November of 196012, in Paris13, France. Ten men, of various educational backgrounds, began to experiment with the relationship between mathematics and poetry.14 The intention of this literary group was to "invent (or reinvent) restrictions of a formal nature [constraints] and propose them to enthusiasts interested in composing literature."lS While there are various fields of constraint-based creations, such as Mathematics, Music, History, Cuisine, Comic Strips, and Potential Detective Fiction16, the initial Oulipian exploration into constrained writing seems to have revolved around mathematics17 (which might be surprising, as today, it appears as though most of the more familiar constraints revolve around linguistic constraints). However, the constraint is a formal"program or rule that exists prior to the act of writing,,/8 and is not merely something to be applied to the text upon completion . More importantly, the constraint is not to be interpreted as a limitation or obstacle, but rather, as a Iiberator.19 While there is some debate as to whether or not the constraint should be visible, and easily recognizable to the reader (some Oulipians prefer that the constraint remain hidden)20, there is no debate among Oulipians surrounding the importance and necessity of constraint. Finally, the Oulipo constraint must be repeatable; the necessity of repeatability ensures clarity and formalization of the constraint.21 While there is some debate regarding the identity of the father or the founder of Oulipo, two men are certainly highlighted as having played very prominent roles in Oulipo's genesis: Raymond Queneau (1903-1976)22 and Fran~ois le Lionnais (1901-1984) 23. 24 Membership into Oulipo is taken quite seriously: "its rules provide that nobody, once elected, can quit the Oulipo-and even after their death, its members are not excused from the group.,,2S This is highly impressive, as this literary group has been active for over 51 years; clearly Oulipo has not faded away nor declined in popularity. Interestingly, a single Google search for the word 12 Motte, page 1 13 Symes, page 1 14 Symes, page 1 15 Perl off, 14 16 Seaman, page 6 17 Symes, page 6 18 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing: The Ideology of Form, page 2 19 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 3 20 Jouet, With (and Without) Constraint, page 6 21 Jouet, With (and Without) Constraint, page 1 22 http ://en Queneau 23 http://en . 7 ois _Le _ Lionnais 24 Motte, page 2 25 Motte, page 1 5 'Oulipo' generates one million, eight hundred, and ninety thousands hits26. This number alone indicates the popularity of constrained writing. While the founder can represent the association, the first text can galvanize and embody the movement. According to Jacques Roubard, an Oulipian, the title Cent Mille Millards de Poemes by Raymond Queneau was, debatably, the first Oulipian work. 27 "Cent Mille Millards de Poemes is a series of ten sonnets constructed in such a fashion that any line in any given sonnet may be interchanged with its opposite number in any of the nine other sonnets. Those ten sonnets potentially generate ten to the fourteenth power, or one hundred trillion poems.,,28 In this respect, it is imperative to emphasize the concept and symbolism of possibility and potentiality. While Oulipo members agreed upon the importance of potentia/literature (as indicated in the name of the group), it is then appropriate to begin such a movement with a poem that represents (seemingly) infinite possibilities - One Hundred Million Million Poems. Finally, there is a philosophical lens through which one can regard constrained writing, most aptly summarized by Jacques Jouet: the Oulipo members don't "write literature under constraints"; rather, they "seek out usable constraints so that literature is written.,,29 Enlightening, and apposite, this notion truly positions the constrained writer along a continuum, whereby their works reflects their relationship, and connection between writer and constraint, and text and meaning. 1.3 Examples of Published Texts Compared to the poes;e a contra;ntes of the 1960's, there is a much wider array of poetic constraints today, as the list of Oulipian constraints has been continually growing. One such area in which accelerated growth has occurred is the area of information retrieval, due to the influences of the computer and the internet. With the increase of spam, and the immediate access to a limitless number of websites, poets can now create found poetrlO, generated from relatively unknown sources. If a poet can imagine a constraint, then they can use it. Should a poet wish to write a poem, limiting themselves to text found uniquely from websites created in May of 2008, then the constraint is created. Equally as interesting, should a poet wish to limit themselves to using words centered around binary codes based on letters with a sum of three, instead of four, then the constraint is created. Regardless of how the constraint is conceived or the writing is executed, there is a proliferation of constraints, as our imagination is the only limitation. 26 Comparatively, while 'Oulipo' received 1,890,000 hits, 'Raymond Queneau' received 998,000, 'Francois Le Lionnais' received 65,400, and 'Constrained Writing' received 10,500,000. These words were Google queried on Sunday October 23, 201l. 27 Motte, page 7 28 Motte, page 6 29 Jouet, With (and Without) Constraints, page 1 30 Found poetry is a movement whereby poetry is created by amassing words and ideas from other sources, to create an entirely new poem 6 Some of the more cited Oulipian and experimental writers include Raymond Queneau, Georges Perec, Jacques Roubard, and Fran~ois Le Lionnais. While Christian BDk is not a member of Oulipo, his work exemplifies constraints which are typical of the Oulipian style. La Disparition, by Georges Perec, is perhaps one of the most referenced texts of Oulipian literature. La Disparition is a 312-page novel written entirely without using the letter Ie' : "Plus tard, voulant toujours y voir plus clair, if tint un journal. 11 prit un album. In inscrivit au haut du folio initial" 31• In an English version, A Void, the translator has modified the text slightly, but managed to adhere to the same constraint: "Days pass. Trying to work this thing out to his own satisfaction, Vowl starts writing a diary, captioning it with just two words"32• La Disparition is considered a foundational text, and represents a very explicit and difficult constraint. Additionally, in spite of the burdensome nature of the constraint, the text is anything but agrammatical, making it very powerful, and coherent.33 La Vide Mode d'Emploi (Life: a User's Manual) is one of Georges Perec's most famous works, incorporating several mathematical constraints, and content restrictions, based on the Graeco-Latin Square:34 "Deux homes se rencontrent sur Ie palier du quatrieme etage, tous deux dans la cinquantaine."35 Readers do not necessarily immediately perceive the constraint, making the search for the constraint that much more appealing. Raymond Queneau's novel, Exercices de Style (Exercises in Style), contains ninety-nine different accounts of the same (seemingly) meaningless situation, written in different tones and styles. Some of the more noteworthy styles include: Metaphorically, Precision, Insistence, Reported Speech, Passive (voice), Asides, Apostrophe, Haiku, Reactionary, and Onomatopoeia. While the constraint changes from page to page, it is a perfect illustration of the ways in which a constraint not only alters the form, but the way in which the content is perceived, and as a result, the way in which the meaning is the constraint (and the constraint is the meaning). Finally, one of the more recent novels published with a very Oulipian-style constraint, was a novel entitled Le Train de Nulle Part by Michel Thaler. This 233-page French novel, written in 2004, was written entirely without the use of verbs: "- Jusque la, pas de malaise, mon pote! Bravo pour ta sa lade, bien touillee rna is pas assez vinaigree a mon gout, mais bravo malgre tout! Et apres?"36 31 Georges Perec, La Disparition, page 41 32 Georges Perec, A Void, page 25 33 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 4 34 35 Georges Perec, La Vie Mode d'Emploi, p. 231 36 Thaler, page 71 7 2.0 Methodology "One can consider constrained writing to be an eminent form of democratic literary production. 1/37 The degree to which a teacher or instructor wishes to implement constrained writing in the classroom, varies depending on the teacher's level of comfort, the students' appreciation and readiness for linguistic experimentation, and the overarching context in which constrained writing is being taught. Constrained writing can be approached from a very individualistic point of departure, or it can begin as a group or classroom activity. As differentiated learning and differentiated instruction form the basis of most of our educational approaches in the classroom, so too should a constrained writing approach. There is no set way to teach the 'model', and nor is there any set way to critique the work. However, here are a few proposed factors to consider and possibly implement: 1. Provide Ex.amples Although possible, it may not be advisable for students to be given a basketball, and to be instructed to figure out the rules of basketball for themselves. Similarly, when introducing constrained writing, it is good practice to begin with a few examples (either historically famous, or examples taken from other students or teachers). In this way, students can begin to contextualize constrained writing, and see exactly what a 'constraint' looks like when they are writing. For example, if they are told that a constraint would be to write a poem using only the keys situated on the left side of the computer keyboard, they might assume that they may use all of the keys, provided that they only type the poem with their left hand. As such, if the teacher can provide a few examples of different types of constraints, then the notion of a 'constraint' becomes more tangible. 2. Demonstrate It is important to show students how to create a text under a constraint. This is imperative to show them the degree to which editing is absolutely crucial; this will show them that a constrained text is usually not written in one single draft. As a class, create a poem together following a fairly simplified constraint, so that each student may contribute to the class poem. A few examples of this might be: 1) write a poem without using the letter M, 2) write a poem in which every word must contain the letter A, and 3) write a poem in which NO double letters occur. On one side of the board could be some of the words that the students brainstorm together, while on the other side of the board, is where the poem itself takes shape. 37 Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The Challenge of Constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634. 8 3. Individualized Group Work Have students work in small groups so that they can brainstorm together. While pooling their intellectual resources, the work does not necessarily have to be a 'group project'; the constraint can be changed for each student in the group. For example, if each group is working on a lipogram (a text in which a letter is omitted), then each student is omitting a separate letter. In this way, they are able to work together, but forcibly, their texts will be different. In this way, an exchange of intellect and understanding takes place between students who are engaged creatively. 4. Rework an Old Text In this prompt, students are all to be given the same text (no more than 150-200 words). This can be a text created by the teacher, or taken from a recognizable source. Once the teacher has verified student understanding of the text, then a constraint can be applied for the reworking of the text. For example, students could be asked to re-write a small excerpt, but without using the letter '0'. In this way, the constraint is not too severe, but the results will forcibly, slightly alter the original meaning: Original: Reworked: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.,t38 I have a dream that in the future this land will rise up and maintain its creed's true meaning: "We maintain these truths as being be self-evident, that all men are created equaL" This new re-worked version can be constrained further. It is not necessary to only have one constraint. The next constraint that one could apply does not have to pertain at all to letter sequencing, but perhaps a visual constraint. In the next constraint, every word must contain a letter which surpasses a line on the ledger: Reworked: I have my dream, that future lands will fight, maintaining their creed's true meaning: "We maintain these truths, being self-evident, that all citizens have been created equal. As a point of departure, this clearly demonstrates to students that one constraint is not the ceiling of creativity, and nor does the text have to be one hundred percent original, for it to be creative. 38 Martin luther King Jr. August 28, 1963 9 5. Analyze the Text While students might want to analyze the content of the text, it is important to also highlight how the content is shaped by the constraint. Whether in group work, as a class, or individually, it is important for students to begin to see the relationship between form and meaning. For example, if a text contains no letters beyond the letter M, a discussion can be held about the effect that that exclusion has on identity. Does the writer feel excluded? Does the audience feel excluded? Has a hierarchy been established by the author simply due to a seemingly trivial constraint? This allows for students to deflect, and instead of necessarily trying to directly interpret the writer's feelings (which is nearly impossible for a neophyteL they can first understand how they feel, and then later impose their own feelings on a text, or interpret the writer's intentions. For example, if a text is analyzed, in which every word is precisely three letters in length, it would be an interesting discussion to ask students the following guiding questions (adapt to higher or lower grades levels if necessary): A) Do you feel more intelligent, or less intelligent, when you use smaller words? B) Do you like to use bigger words? C) Are bigger words more impressive than smaller words? D) If you were scared or frightened, would you use bigger words or smaller words? E) If you felt proud and important, would you use bigger words or smaller words? F) What things can you think of that naturally come in threes? G) What things can you think of that naturally come in twos? Fours? H) What is symbolic of an odd number, versus an even number? I) If you had to change this text to match your mood right now, would you use bigger words, or smaller words? J) Which words do you like to use, that are not three letters long? K) How do you feel when you are not allowed to use words that you like? L) Of all the words in this text, which word do you think is the most impressive? Why is that? M) If you had to give the text another title, but it had to be four letters long, what would it be? N) If you had to write a sequel for this text, would it be using three letter words, or a different number of letters? 0) Do you think that you would have liked this poem more, or less, had the author said what they wanted to say, without limiting him/herself to three letter words? P) If you had to write a text like this, what would be your preferred word length? What words could you not live without? 10 6. Make it Public Some students prefer their work to be kept to themselves, while other students enjoy having their work publicly displayed. To alleviate the pressure of producing work that must be displayed publicly, it might be advantageous to display the work of those students who would like their work exhibited, while respecting the wishes of the more reluctant writers. In this way, if the concept of the constraint has not yet been solidified among some of the students, they will have visual access to their peers' examples. The level of pUblicity depends on many things, but could take the form of an in-school coffee house, attaching the writings to a classroom wall, creating a poetic pamphlet to distribute, or presenting the work at a larger school event. For some of the reluctant writers, sharing their text with one other student is enough encouragement and motivation, while still considering the act 'public'. 7. Hold a Writers Workshop There are some who say that texts created in a writer's workshop are doomed to be alike; however, this fear of sameness is not justified, as the variety can be quite great.39 While students may begin from the same point of departure, the constraint will necessitate a very different reaction from each of the writers. As each writer has his or her own unique backgrounds and experiences, the literary output in a writer's workshop will forcibly change from one writer to the next; tithe river of language will seldom produce the same poem twice.',4o 8. Incorporate Cross-curricular Studies The notion of constraint does not need to limit itself to the arena of languages, and can be explored in all curricular areas. Here are just a few examples: • Mathematics: at its genesis, Oulipo texts were predominantly mathematically based. As such, creating a mathematical constraint can be very rewarding.41 • Health and Career Education: planning courses provide a fantastic milieu in which a student can experiment with language, while expressing their goals and feelings. • Home Economics: students can create meals in which they limit themselves to using ingredients based on a constraint. For example, they might need to experiment with baking cookies, in which only ingredients using the letter 'e' can be incorporated • Music Education: in experimenting with music composition, students could be faced with the task of creating a song in which A flat, A, and A sharp are never to be used. This seemingly simple note elimination could push students away from using the scales with which they are familiar, and force them into trying new sounds. 39 Bizarro, page 304 40 James, Could be Inquiry, page 2 41 Seaman, page 3 11 2. 1 Visual Constraints A continuing tradition of visual presentation of literal texts is that of concrete-poetry. liThe term concrete-poetry referred to those poetic texts in which meaning could not be separated from the text's visual form.,,42 Poems of this nature are often very short, 43 and veer away from traditional structure. While concrete poetry is certainly a worthwhile and educational venture (in particular, the role of interpretation of the text), it can be more difficult to apply an Oulipian constraint to a concrete poem. Perhaps this difference can be best summarized by the following quote by Marjorie Perloff: "Concretism is related to the senses, Oulipo more to the intellect"44. When examining poems for constraints that take on a more aesthetic appeal, there are certainly too many possibilities to list. However, several Oulipian constraints will be discussed, and the various merits of each constraint will be highlighted. Creative constrained texts that take on a visual form can be very tricky to create, but maintain a very clear pedagogical purpose. By forcing writers to pay attention to the aesthetics of the text, the following ideas must be considered: word length, letter dimensions, letter patterns and frequency, and sentence length. Consider for example the following poem45: 2.2 Prisoner's Constraint amour ou ami? 42 Perl off, 79 43 Perl off, 79 44 Perl off, 80 mon ami- mon mari m'ennuie; amorcer un crime crimoisie? mon ami, vous m'aimez aussi; mais mon mari caresse ma vie mon amour, mon mari, mon ami mon mari aime moi comme ceci; en exces, enerve - ravi mon ami murmure 'connerie'; mon ami, en amour, m'a suivie CCEur ecroue, CCEur en noir, CCEur en suie mon CCEur conca sse se carie; mon mari, son amour m'a saisi mon mari, son amour m'a nourri, mais mon ami a severe envie mon casseur, mon amour, ma manie amour raccourci? ressaisi? mon amour - un vrai crime commis caresse moi mon ami, me voici! mais mon CCEur- un CCEur noirci mon ami, ma corvee, ennemie cesse mon ami! nos ceremonies; mon casseur, CCEur asservi mon mari s'en va si, mon ami m'aime ici; mon mari m'aime ainsi: . . . 46 sans mon ami, sans mOl, sans SOUCIS 45 Many of the examples of poetry found within this document are not necessarily age-appropriate for secondary school students. They are incorporated simply to serve as an example of a constraint. 46 Written by Emily Grant, 2005 12 This French poem, written entirely without letters surpassing the ledger lines (ascenders and descenders [called the 'Prisoner's Constraint' (prisoners would not have had much space, and would therefore have had to take advantage of the space provided, by avoiding 'tall' letters]), creates tension: physical restraints confine the letters to minimalism, and oppression. This constraint, additionally called the Maca047 constraint, makes for wonderful analysis and interpretation when completed, for the appearance of the text influences the meaning of the text. This constraint happens to be particularly difficult; the writer must only write using the following letters: a, c, e, i, m, n, 0, r, s, u, v, w, x, z. This makes writing quite challenging, for the most frequent letters within the French alphabet include: E, 5, A, R, T, I, N, U, L, 0, C. 48 Consequently, using the Prisoner's Constraint with the French language, presupposes that the writer limits his/herself to eight of the most commonly used eleven letters of the alphabet. In English, the Prisoner's Constraint becomes considerably restricted, for the letter frequency reads: E, T, A, 0, I, N, 5, H, R, D, l,49 The English writer restricts his/herselfto only seven of the most frequent eleven letters of the alphabet. This forces constrained writers to push their vocabulary boundaries, striving to find words deemed 'acceptable' for the Prisoner's Constraint. Online word generators, typically used to descramble letters found within newspaper word scramblersso drastically aid the creative writer. By typing the letters that the writer wishes to limit themselves to, the website generates all of the possible matches. Now the writer becomes forcibly exposed to fresh words, after having restricted themselves to limited letter usage. This turns out to be particularly pedagogically useful, for the creative writer learns enhanced vocabulary, and practices meaning-making skills concerning unfamiliar vocabulary usage.S1 2.3 Letter Alignment Beautifully symbolic, and often subtle, letter alignment constraints can often create some exceptionally restrained but fine examples of very tangible restrictions, in which the meaning is augustly represented through the form. By necessitating small letter alignment patterns, the writers systematically find themselves free to experiment with a language in such a creative way, that is only limited by its visual arrangement; not by its communicative grammatical composition. In this way the writer can accurately create an acute sense of movement and displacement. Letter alignment reinforces the connection between the presentation of the text, and the meaning of the text. In this way, more elements are available for analysis later on: the symbolism of lines and spaces, the imagery of alignment and compartmentalisation, and the visual cacophony and euphony of the text. 47 48 Lapprand, 53 49 _frequency 50 This is a fantastic word descrambler. 51 This section was written using a constraint opposite to that of the Prisoner's Constraint: every word contains an ascender or a descender, creating a feeling of supremacy, superiority, and influence. This is perhaps a subliminal trick, but the imposition of such 'long' letters creates an atmosphere that is not readily visible to the naked eye. 13 The reader is thus forced to ebb and flow with the text, and jostle his or her way through the textual playground, to reach a common interpretation of not only the symbolism, but also the context.52 The reader essentially becomes an integral part of the text, as they respond to the constraint. Whether the constraint remains hidden or visible, this is not entirely important; the sense of duality and polarity should subconsciously divide the reader's attention, and therefore, their appreciation of the content:53 Consider the following text. 54 'Queen of the Morning You're a queen of pleasure deeds You got your kicks last night You move your legs like they're made of fire You will act vixen-like tonight You shine those heels of glory You can walk the walk of shame But you feel hot walking well And you'll do it all again You're a queen of pleasure deeds A dress you donned last night A goddess laced in linen sheets You're a smoking sultry sight. You did not return last night It is clear that all can tell For you saw nightfall out of bed His sleazy-ass motel. So you delight in all your pride Your moves are stifling hot So you strut 'n smile away Hence you wanted all you got. You know your sex pleases men You are so sexy, all exotic, Who cares why you sleep around When you're lustfully erotic. When you leave and latch the door Smiles paint those lips, You had moves that lewdly grooved He worshiped lustful hips. You will tease 'n please you freaky freak You're a siren of black nights, A sexy charged-up playing flirt You'll act temptingly tonight. All your clothes, slip off quick Dresses line your floor, But you don't just lay any man Because you are no lousy whore . 52 A reverse diagonal line, commencing with the final e on the last word in the first line is created in this paragraph. 53 In this small paragraph, the letter't' is aligned at the beginning of the lines. As the letter't' itself visually represents a junction, the subconscious appreciation of the text might be influenced by a sense of indecision or choice. 54 Emily Grant, 2010 14 In this text, the letter 'L' running the length of the page, gives the reader the impression that there is a split, or a dichotomy mid-text. While this may not challenge the writer to search out new vocabulary words, it challenges the writer to rethink their word choice, and check for proper spelling. It is the processes of revision, editing, and rethinking that are intentionally highlighted under this type of constraint. The process of rewriting, and editing, is highly developed in constrained writing.55 It would be nearly impossible for a novice writer to successfully complete this task without editing; by forcing the writer to count letters, check spelling, and alter word placement, the writer is obliged to invest in their writing, as opposed to merely delivering their writing. Moreover, for the constrained reader, there is an immediate challenge to not only find the constraint, but more importantly, to discover the ways in which the constraint and the meaning are intrinsically tied. For reluctant writers, it is an easier challenge to begin the sentence with the same letter. For more advanced writers, it is often more difficult to place the repeated letter towards the end of the line, as they are forced to go over what was previously written, and quite often, rework what was already written, to make the constraint work. For the most successful writers, a variety of patterns and lines may be created, in which they create a 'V' mid-text, forcing the students to adhere to several constraints at once. As a classroom activity, this constraint ties in quite nicely with the Grade 9 Prescribed Learning Outcomes, for Reading and Representing: "Cl: Write meaningful personal texts that explore ideas and information to 1) experiment, 2) express self,,56 There is no better way to experiment with form, than to manipulate the text in a way that reflects the writer. A writing prompt which might work nicely, is haVing students write down one meaningful word that represents each year of their life: the younger they are, the smaller the words will be, and as they age, the word length grows with them. 2.4 The Snowball One final type of visual Oulipo constraint that will be discussed here is the Snowball. As one can imagine a snowball gathering size and intensity, the snowball poem also gathers in size and intensity; each line is one letter longer than the last. This can continue until the poem can no longer grow, or it can reach an extremity, and return in length and size: 55 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 7 56 rp/pdfs/english_language_arts/2007 ela _812_9. pdf 15 Am His Tiny Small Female Accused Abruptly, Powerless, Venerating laboriously. Discouraging Apathetically, Affectionately, Contradictorily, Surrealistically, Indistinguishably Anticonstitutional. Compartmentalizing Hypersensitiveness. The power of such a writing constraint is in the exploration of new words. By conducting a simple search using an online search engine for "20 letter words", a list is generated for the writer's use. It is important to note that punctuation, and some poetic licensing must be taken into consideration. In this way, form is the absolute authority, while content is left free to interpretation and experimentation. Typically when one teaches creative writing, a somewhat narrowed writing prompt is often given, and usually, it takes the form of a constraint based on content. By using a constraint such as the Snowball, we give our students the freedom to throw typical writing conventions out the window, and to experiment with content in a way that is less threatening. Provided that the students are true to the visual constraint, and provided that either through use of the word (or image) or through an accompanying document that the students can prove their understanding of the new vocabulary words, then students put themselves in a position where they are essentially incapable of breaking any grammatical rules, as truly, they are not focusing on grammatical rules, but rather, spelling and meaning-making. This activity not only strengthens vocabulary skills; it also further reinforces the functions of verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Students can experiment with the various ways in which adjectives creatively become adverbs, and in a manner which is imaginatively ludic and experimental - not didactic and institutionalized.57 57 This text was written with a visual constraint: the end of the sentence creates a 'wave' towards the end of the lines. 16 2.5 Braille Working with Braille through a creative lens could foster a better understanding among students of visual impairment. To either increase sensitivity or awareness within the classroom (or even simply to find another interesting and unique creative option), working with Braille can either be a tactual or visual constraint. In the following poem, only letters have been chosen which contain an odd number of raised dots within the letter: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• ••• • • • • • •• • • •• • • • •• • •••• • •• • • ••• • • • •• • • • ••• • •• • ••• • • •• • •• • •• • • • • • •• • • ••••••• • • • •• • • • ••• ••• ••• • •• • ••• • • • • • • • •• • • •• • • • • •• • • • • Flashy, joyful joual, Handsome sounds unfold, Holy sands, lush lands, Soulful days, unholy days Only old hands full Handfuls of old hands Fond hands sound loudly Hold on • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • · .• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • When working with Braille, there are a number of constraints which one could consider: using only letters containing odd raised dots, using only letters containing even raised dots, using letters in which the raised dots do not occupy the lower threshold, using letters which 'appear' more vertical than horizontal, etc. This is a very powerful way to create concrete meaning between the presentation of the letter, and the meaning of the word. 17 2.6 International Phonetic Alphabet When teaching students proper pronunciation, it is essential to expose them to the International Phonetic Alphabet, In this way, they are able to teach themselves the proper pronunciation of a new word, should their dictionaries provide a pronunciation guide, By experimenting with sounds, students are encouraged to reference words in the dictionary; this strengthens students' skills with dictionary usage, and teaches students proper pronunciation , For L2 learners, this is a foundational activity, The constraint options regarding the IPA are endless: • a text in which only one identical phoneme is used • a text in which only double-lettered symbols or phonemes are used • a text in which several symbols or phonemes are chosen to produce a desired visual effect For the text provided below, the following symbols permeate the words in the text: 8 3 J lUDOE IHJNK THE CA~UAL ~ORT In this way, not every single word is limited to one of the five symbols represented above, but an attempt has been made to incorporate the sounds which are as similar as possible, In this way, any student learning a new word or sound is creating an auditory lexical field: n'd3 1) 'de nd3e rz 'ed3 Oe 'd3ed3ez 'e d3ent 'ste d3 1) Oe ei '~r kel 'bent Oe '8e s pi e n t ru8fe li 'Ie p l) Oe 'st e nt Oa 'd3 r-ar-z 'bri 0 Oa 'ei m 'Oe JeEnt 'kwe nt Oa 'd3ast a s 'Ie ps 'd3ast a s 'a ru a 'a r a ,te t v 'st r e I) (k ) a c5i a n 'a I)k' ebal d 's e n c5a d3 'r- d ke l r 's e n c5e 'd3estes 'lu 3en Oe '1 0 a d ke'lu 3en f e' neEn a1 par 's we a n a 'f a 1 n've en 'I i 3e r 'Ii 'pI e3er I) 'kae3we1 'traens 'g r e e ns Oi 'e d3ents 'maed3ne t v'li 'sket I) Oa r k'se e n Oe pra 's e e n a 'st n t Oi 'Ind}:~ rd eEd'm n t 'feE a n I) 'eE Z b 'ni e Oa 't e r-Enjoying danger's edge The judge's agent staging the theatrical bench The thespian truthfully shaping the stench The jurors breathe the theme they shant quench 18 The justice shapes justice through authoritative strength The unthinkable decision, the juridical rescission The justice illusion the loathed collusion Financial persuasion, official invasion Leisurely pleasuring casual tronsgressions The agents imaginatively sketching their accession The procession astonished, the injured admonished Fashioning ashes beneath the chair 2.6 Letter Sequencing and Spelling Patterns It is important "to pay attention to the alphabet and the play(fullnessj of language. ,,58 Constraints which are based on the letter are far from stifling the writer; the constraints have the exact opposite effect, and in effect, liberate the writer.59 Limiting a writer's toolkit of words forces the writer to either seek out new words, or become more familiar with the ones at their disposal. Of all the different Oulipian constraints that one could adhere to, constraints based on the letter, and the alphabet, are perhaps some of the more useful in aiding developing writers. After all, lilt is impossible to master the language, without mastering the alphabet"60 As such, the pedagogical application of constrained writing becomes much more tangible, and promising. Constrained writing provides a creative, cathartic alternative to a spelling worksheet. Letter sequence constraints allow students to move at their own pace, and within their own level of comfort. In essence, when providing a letter constraint, we are providing differentiated learning, as each student is free to experience and experiment with the constraint on their own level. While the constraint is a mere concrete and impersonal 'suggestion', the text is what develops into a creative and fluid concept. The meaning of the text depends on the inventive capabilities of the author6\ if a student is not willing to push themselves within the constraint, then what is produced from the constraint will reflect what was put into it. All writers begin from the same constraint and the same starting point; however, all the various directions and personal histories which guide the writers necessitate unique, personal, different, and meaningful outpourings. One of the older historical examples of a writing constraint involving letter sequence is that of the palindrome. The palindrome knew its peak in the height of the Medieval Ages62 • While the use of palindromes aids with the spelling of certain words, it is a rather difficult task for an adult to undertake, let alone high school students. As a result, while it is indeed an 58 Leggo, 92 59 Lapprand, page 56 60 Lapprand, page 77 61 Lapprand, page 67 62 Lapprand, page 93 19 impressive constraint to attempt, the benefits might not out weight the time that it takes to produce an effective and coherent piece of writing that is true to the constraint. Concerning letter omission and writing patterns, the harder the constraint, the easier it is to see; the easier the constraint, the harder it is to see.63 One of the more common and celebrated Oulipian constraints is that of the lipogram - a text in which a certain letter (or letters) is excluded. As was mentioned earlier, E is the most common vowel in the English language, preceding A, 0, and I. The letters U and Yare not even present in the top eleven most used letters, despite their existence as vowels. In this case, it would be much more difficult to avoid using the letter E, as opposed to omitting the letter y.64 2.7 Univocalic The opposite of a lipogram, is univocalic,65 in which only one letter is used. Often, this is seen with the use of vowels. Again, with the letters E and A, this is slightly easier than with the vowels I, 0, U, and Y. Consider the following poem: My sly nymph Pry thy dry crypts Shyly cry my spry myths Why try gypsy hymns Pygmy lynx, Tryst by syzygy wynds Fly my rhythm, fly Ay thy sylph Wryly lynch my symphysy While it is not a requirement to use a vowel, nor is it a requirement to always begin a word with a certain letter - the letter may fall anywhere within the line. Here is an example of a text, in which every word must contain the letter T: Thorieau teaches the testament, The Torah, The Talmud. Transcendental teaching titillate the throngs, Talmudic teachings, tastefully teach the Tanach The theory that the troposphere takes time to translate the teachings, The tangible theories, The tender thoughts, The terminatorial technicalities that threaten totality Teach trust Testamentary trust, 63 Lapprand, page 54 64 In section 2.5, the letter 'y' was omitted . While this would not have been readily noticeable or laboriously difficult, it proved effective enough as it necessitated an aversion to adverbs. 65 20 Trust that theologians theorize Trust that the thereafter touts time That transubstantiation, transcendence, teach transplendency Through temples, through tabernacles, through teachers Writing a text by limiting oneself to only one vow.el is not an easy task. Moreover, this task is rendered even more difficult when the text must have some sort of meaning. It would be almost pointless to write a text that conformed to the constraint, but lacked any real meaning or significance. The writer must respect grammatical form; an incoherent text would devalue the meaning, in an attempt to highlight the form. 66 2.8 Double Letters Another form of letter sequence constraint among writing constraints, is creating a text in which only double letters are used. This is particularly helpful as often students have a difficult time with proper orthography in the case of words with repeating letters, but also, with words which do not contain double letters, but might appear to (for example, litterature in French, as opposed to literature in English). Consider the following poem: Utter all possible freeing accents Scribble little kisses accidently, intentionally Tomorrow shall fulfill disappointment Nonetheless Nightfall magically effaces necessity Sweethearts happily disappear Magically, addictively Folly finally freeing flattery Cooing occasionally successful Uttering sweet little attractive parallels Possibilities Fiancees committing, accepting Affectionately tattooing appreciation, passion, fondness Amorousness dazzling bachelorettes Curvaceousnesses feeding discreetness Dreamless drowsiness, effective lasciviousness Merry accomplices cheering licentiousness, salaciousness Wantonness possessing duskiness This poem is particularly complicated to write, as it forces the exclusion of pronouns: I, you, he, she, we, and they. Furthermore, it prohibits the writer from using articles: a, the, some, etc. Moreover, it eliminates the verb to be: I am, you are, he is, she is, we are, and they are. As a result, any verb that is to be used is at least slightly 'stronger' than the verb 'to be'. This is incredibly helpful for students, as it forces them to think of verbs in the present continuous, 66 Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The Challenge of Constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634. 21 and it forces them to think of nouns in the plural form - something that is not always an easy task for the non-English speaker.67 2.9 Aphaeresis One final area of letter sequencing and spelling patterns which requires some consideration is the use of silent letters. While there are many silent letters, there are various types of combinations: aphaeresis (in which the silent letter commences the word), syncope (in which the silent letter falls in the middle of the word), and elision (in which the silent letter terminates the word). Regarding elision, the writer must acknowledge at some point, whether or not they regard a final E as being silent. Who knocks knees Knows wholesome knowledge Wrestles pseudo-physicality whole Kneeling, knotting, kneading knobs Knickers writing mnemonic psalms, Djembes honour hourly wrongs Knackered djinns knew psychosis Knightly heirs write gnarly chords 2.10 Syncope Laughing, business people Naughty hour Champagne calms lonely folk talkative folk talk, talk, talk Dialogue answers nightly guests Through ghostly nights Rendezvous feigning subtle exhaustion Tongues lightly, tightly aligning Two gnarled heads delighting Reigning high Muscles straighten Breathing, breathing When withering honour Deafens thoughts Rewriting wrongs Though whispered psalms 67 This paragraph was written without any double letters. The forced omission or presence of double letters is significant enough to prompt any writer to seek out different words, or at the very least, reconsider their word choice. 22 2.11 Elision Condemn the pirate, damn the lamb, Give the corpse a hymn, Serve the autumn gourmet crumb, More debris to entomb the limb. Contemn the tomb, dislimn the womb, the bomb to numb the rite, Limn the solemn bourgeois coup, bedamn the plebiscite. Doubt the fame, dumb the name, hurrah, succumb to time, Little fate, obliterate, The hope to frame the crime One of the strengths of writing using silent letters is the creative way in which a relatively dry subject is being explored. However, words that contain silent letters are among some of the most commonly misspelled words. Depending on the size, and linguistic strength of the students in the class, it might be advantageous for the teacher to provide the students with a list, outlining every word in the English language that contains a silent letter. In this way, students are not necessarily 'guessing' which words have silent letters (as sometimes, non native-English speakers might simply not know the correct pronunciation of a word); they are being provided with the words necessary to complete the task, and to do so with competency. 2.12 Technological Constraints Creating constraints based on technological considerations can be highly rewarding and exceptionally engaging for students. Refreshingly, due to the relatively recent 'introduction' of technological constraints, there still remains ample poetic pasture in which to experiment. In fact, digital poetry was still primarily in its infancy in 1997; 68 this provides the constrained writer with the freedom to experiment with technological constraints, without necessarily experiencing the feeling of deja-vu in regards to the constraint. The use of technological constraints69 is only possible due to the expansion of computer-based systems70• Consider first and foremost, the instrument of input: the keyboard. The keyboard is exceedingly symbolic of the genesis of thought; it contains the alphabet, representative of the nascence of creativity. One constraint which bodes well within the classroom, as it improves typing skills and spelling skills, is to restrict the students to using words that are uniquely crafted using the left hand side of the keyboard - known as the left-handed lipogram. In this way, the writer is barred from using the following letter: V, U, I, 0, P, H, J, K, L, N, and M. This makes writing verbs quite difficult: the lack of I and N makes the present progressive verb tense impossible. The lack of V restricts some adjective use. The lack of H severely restricts the use of pronouns. In fact, no pronoun is possible at all in a text created with the left hand. Consider the following examples: 68 Perl off, 73 69 For this definition of 'technology', this paper is only referring to more modern means of technology, excluding the printing press, the fax machine, etc. Typically, 'technology' in this paper refers to the internet, the computer, and cell phones. 70 Seaman, page 6 23 2.13 Keyboard Input Stuck in the Middle Crafted adverbs, fracted crafts Wasted traces, drafts redacted Faster, vaster, sacred verbs, Serdab's secrets are extracted. Bad tawers strafe safer dears Bearded cadets screw cadavers, Wasted tawse averts we bravest Scared crews strafe after cadres. Brawest savers starve we free Bated war begs dafter act, Scarted raw breast wavers bare Brawn, beast, tears, fears react. Verre a Verre Verre a verre, et face a face Barbara reste assez tard, Certes, ce stage est cree grace A. ce brave et sage Gerard. Barbara, « deesse de cage» Evadee, a cet egard, A. travers ces barres de rage Fete ce brave et sage Gerard. Xeres, sexe, et dessert Barbara sert a ce gars, Feter cette vedette severe Ce brave et sage Gerard. Barbara s'est evadee Bazarder ses avatars, Se sert de ce gars desaxe Ce garde tare Gerard. Cette Barbara a bavarde Ce gars a ete un cafard, Gerard se fera arrete Cette bavarde et ce batard. 24 2.14 Auditory Constraints The aurality of a text can be as intoxicating as the imagery. Any student wishing to perfect their accent in a language would benefit immensely from the production of an aurally constrained text. It is of almost no concern whether the student is ESL, or simply lacks finesse in their accent - any individual wishing to alter the way in which they speak, can find power in the creativity of aural constraints. Perhaps one of the most inspiring quotes comes from My Fair Lady - a film in which a gentleman tries to correct a poor flower girl's speech (and both participants are native English speakers): "Think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it's the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative, and musical mixtures of sounds." 2.15 Diphthong Five lies, Arriving loudly, Sounding proudly, Shouting out your auction's crown; How mighty-Gouging out our joyous fife Benighting our moorlands, trite Facing near, lower power Betray our jaw through law tonight Avow how thou would cere our knight Our mouths grow down, though Voices raw draw power tight Blow-by-blow, Overthrow your cause outright71 71 Wikipedia defines a diphthong as being: "refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable". As such, a teacher could impose a diphthong constraint in which two vowel sounds occur within two vowels, or simply within one vowel, still creating two vowel sounds. 25 2.16 Bilabial Constraining the writer to bilabial consonants is interesting for its aural component, but additionally for its visual element. For writers who wish to use their writing as a form of self-expression, the visual forcefulness of the bilabial lip movements is both tympanic, and symbolic; bilabial sounds are the representation of evaporating and immediately explosive reverberant intentions, but which inevitably become the ethereal silence that follows the crescendo. In essence, because the sound of a bilabial consonant cannot linger (as compared to the letter R for example), then symbolically, neither can the content which is being expressed. In particular, bilabial plosives create a very ghostly and vaporous tone. However, it is not imperative for each word to commence with a bilabial consonant - it suffices for the sound to exist at any given place within the word. Yet, if the writer wished to further constrict themselves, the option of bilabial alliteration is always available. The aural aspect aids in creating a sense of rhythm and tempo. When read out loud, a bilabial text becomes quasi personified, as it takes on movement and cadence. Consider the sense of urgency interlaced with the feeling of hopelessness, exaggerated by the use of bilabial consonants: Able-bodies breaking meaning Murdering blasphemous promises Perfection unbroken but banishing momentary martyrdom Mighty matches blowing miracles apart, Believing memories permeate bloody battlegrounds Midnight passion appeals, minimizing mediocrity Masquerading by provoking brawny, muscular, powerful men But mere pebbles persist. People must perish Before humanity begins. 2.17 Cacophony While cacophony can be taught as a literary device, it also makes for a wonderful writing constraint. When students are taught different genres of writing, it is important for the text to have an accompanying sound; if the sound does not match the content, then there is disjunction. Consider the following example of letter writing, in which cacophony underpins every single word, to highlight the writer's dissatisfaction: Dear Rogers Communications Inc., Our business recently acquired twelve android portable telephones. Presently, eight are broken - various buttons are lacking, and several screens contain cracks and breaks. Regretfully, Rogers Communications Inc. representatives and agents deny accountability; regardless, our 26 business requires functional portable telephones to communicate effectively, and Rogers Communications remains accountable. To resolve our predicament, our business requests additional temporary units, complete maintenance concerning our current android portable telephones, and financial compensation towards unused daytime minutes. Our business remains grateful; our company remains consistently devoted to Rogers Communications Inc., and acknawledges your considerations towards our request. Appreciatively, Reginald Quimper Choosing euphony or cacophony as a constraint is a very practical way of ensuring that the intended message is received. By using cacophony, the writer guarantees imposed reception with the audience; the listener may not hear the words or their implied meanings, but they will hear the crunching and chomping of cacophony, thus influencing their impression of the text. 2.18 Long Vowel Vs Short Vowel Sounds Perhaps one of the more recognizable constraints for younger children is to work with either short vowel sounds, or long vowel sounds. If the vowel sounds are shorter, the text might sounds choppier and irregular. If the vowel sounds are longer, the text might sound more melodic and smooth. By asking younger students to choose one or the other, they are empowered to be creative while learning the various sounds of letter combinations. For any ESL or L272 student, this is an ideal way to teach sounds and pronunciation. Often, ESL or L2 students excel in written work, but require additional support for oral output. In this way, students take ownership of the work that they produce, and are more likely to connect with a text that they have written, as opposed to a worksheet that they are completing. The following three images are written in a way that is in keeping with a graphic novel. Many reluctant readers turn to graphic novels as opposed to traditional literature. If students are given the option to work within the framework of a graphic nove" then they are free to experiment with shorter sentences, and choppier ideas. Instead of asking the students to write a cohesive and coherent essay using only short vowel sounds, it might be an easier task to introduce the topic (especially to younger students) through the format of the graphic novel. In this way, any words which they cannot express (due to constraint) can also be portrayed in 72 Language Two - Second Language Learner 27 picture format, thus supplementing the text. Within this format, students can express a feeling, retell a story, or present an issue which is current or incites discussion. No longer are art and literature divided - they become the arena in which difficult concepts may be toyed with, while under the safety of familiar drawing techniques and imagination. While the content of the following example portrays a dystopia based on ethnic separation, it may not be fitting to show to younger audiences. Regardless, long vowel sounds resonate within every word, demonstrating how such a constraint might be conducted: 28 I:>YSTOPIAN PATZAl:>lSe TZeS/DeS INSIDe Tl-leSe TZeMOTe ATZC.I-IIF'e{;AGC)S .. . c;,TZOkJING TZAPlD[;Y, AWNe FOTZ DeC.ADeS ••• IS{;AND TI-ITZee C.ONTAINS I-IUMANS kJl-IO SeeM VeTZY SWkJ ... FekJ F'eop{;e KNOkJ Tl-leSe FAJ.1I{;leSj Tl-ley seeM FOTZeIGN. IS{;AND elGI-IT C.ONTAINS A{;81NOS 29 TINY AI:>.JAC.eNT STATes APPeATZ TO Be TI-ITZIVING ••• IS{;ANI:> TkJO C.ONTAINS I-IUMANS kJl-IO SeeM VeTZY MeAN ••• \ IS {;AND Tl-IlTZTeeN C.ONTAINS I-IUMANS kJl-IO APPeATZ VeTZY I-IAITZY IS(...ANt> noJeNTY-TkJt:J C-t:JNTAINS I-IUMANS kJl-lt:J seeM VeTZY TINY ••• ---....-" -~-...---, ~" , '.' ~. . . I .. .. ~ •• ~ • .I' ! ". ::' ~ ",:,~, " ;:-::< ", ' ,', ' • , ~ '. I ~ . ' .. . . -.. ' .. . ' , ' .. ,' .. ~, --'-- '---~--.:....:.-' 30 c/;oseD FOIZ /;IFe • eNTllZe ZONes DeFINING FA/VIII."'AIZITY, so N080DY FOlZelGN Goes TO THose IS/;ANDS.--PeAce kJeAKeNS ISL.ANDeIZSI IDeA/; DlZeA/VIS 31 PUIZIFYING IZAces ,M,eANS SePATZATlNG peop/;e NO IZeFUGees peNeTIZATe THese ISL.ANDS K.eePlNG Peop/;e OUTsIDe PACIFies Peop/;e INsIDe THese IDeA/;S Keep peAce 8eTkJeeNIS/;ANDS 2. 19 Grammatical Constraints Not all constrained writing is confined to the poetic arena. On the contrary, there are many examples of prosaic texts which are descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative. For example, the novel Not a Wake, by Michael Keith, is written following the sequence of Pi - the word length must mirror that of the given number. Introducing constrained writing can sometimes be more difficult in prose, as there is not the same degree of poetic licensing which can occur. The constraint can make every aspect of the writing significantly more difficult: maintaining proper punctuation, ensuring a fluid plot, creating character development, etc. However, by imposing a constraint, the author is forced to work even harder, and to find new alternatives to ensure a meaningful text is being created. 2.20 Passive Voice In this text, all sentences must contain a verb in the passive voice. Often, educators encourage students to stay away from the passive voice. However, when teaching the difference between active voice, and passive voice, it might be a worthwhile activity to have the students create a piece of writing using one voice, and then re-write it using another voice. In this instance, the text was written using both passive and active verbs, and then re-written to conform to the constraint: Acacia blissfully falls, and is welcomed into the cushions of her sand-coloured overstuffed couch in the living room. A DVD has been carefully placed into the machine, and Acacia's feet have been propped up on the second-hand coffee table in front of her. Work has been finished for two hours now. While flipping through the government warnings about copyright, and the previews of new releases, Acacia makes her way to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea, and some buttery popcorn to be eaten absentmindedly. Soon, the room is filled with the sweet aroma of buttery popcorn and mint tea. The movie is being played at a louder volume than normal. Acacia's hand is plunged deep into the warmth of the bowl containing the savory popcorn, and is slowly withdrawn clasping a gigantic handful. While the popcorn is slowly being gobbled up, Acacia sips her tea ... absolutely memorized by the television screen. For no apparent reason at all, a mouthful of popcorn becomes lodged in Acacia's airway, and she begins to choke on a deadly mixture of tea and popcorn. Her thoughts were taken over by panic. Where was her cell phone last seen? Would she be saved by her neighbours? Could the Heimlich maneuver be conducted by someone on their own? While her thoughts became muddled with the panic that was consuming her, her lungs became barren with a feeling of stagnation and mortality. Acacia was being trompled by the inevitable, with the same elegance of a cat being drowned. The last few moments which were consumed, were spent strewn about on the floor, eyeing the half finished renovations in the house, and the lousy workmanship of the renovations that she and her husband had attempted together. Things were left unfinished, and Acacia would have hated that. 32 2.21 Sentences Without Verbs Creative writing often relies heavily upon creative adjectives, and colourful adverbs. While many creative writing teachers try to emphasize 'strong' verbs, it can be a worthwhile activity to illegalize verbs altogether. In this way, students are forced to see the necessity of verbs, but additionally, the functionality of adjectives and adverbs. In this example below, the story takes the form of a postcard story73: The French cafe so elaborately sophisticated, on such a poetic afternoon. "Any wine for Madame?" Affectionately and calmly, towards a beautiful, younger woman ... "not today", in an exquisite Austrian accent, to the older, established and dapper gentleman. "Beautifuloutside ... what lovely weather this time of year". The woman, in her mid-thirties ... so patient and genuine, yet also sophisticatedly reserved and ethereal. "Perhaps an hors-d'oeuvre?" The gentle waiter, again. "Most definitely not today, but perhaps tomorrow." Social etiquette once more. "But thank you. Very kind. A simple kir for today. Merci." One of the strengths of this kind of constraint is the ability to see and appreciate various sentence structures. This type of constraint pushes the writer away from a sentence which might typically be composed of an article, a noun, and a verb; now the writer must be forced to think of alternative patterns, and unconventional ways of self-expression. In this way, it is not merely content which is being explored, but rather, the very basis of our languages - sentence structure. 2.22 Specific Verb Tense Writing in another language can be very difficult, but an advantage to learning a foreign language is that the understanding of verb tenses becomes strengthened. This might perhaps be one of the few arenas in which a non-native speaker might enjoy more linguistic knowledge and confidence than a native speaker.74 When teaching students verb tenses, it can be a very worthwhile activity to have them write a small passage, and then re-write the story ten different times using different verb tenses. However, this quickly becomes redundant and loses its creative niche. What is proposed to help reinforce a specific verb tense is that a story is unique to a specific verb tense from its 73 A postcard story is one in which the entire story could take place within the space limitations of the size of a postcard . In this way, a snapshot of a story is presented. For students, this works quite well, as the end goal seems readily attainable, and quite feasible. 74 While this is an enormous generalization, my personal experience has shown me that native English speaking students have a difficult time recognizing verb tenses in their own language. However, when they learn a foreign language, and they are forced to study a verb one tense at a time, they become more aware of verb tenses, and verb tense agreement. Similarly, ESL students can often times be more versed in verb tense identification than their native English speaking classmates. 33 nascence. The following story is a whimsical story written with a focus on the past progressive; every sentence contains at least one example of the past progressive. The further away from the present, the more difficult the restraint. As such, the content and sentence structure is quite basic, but an attempt to address different verbs has been made: This tale is about Michael and Michelle, same very adventurous twins, who were doing everything in their power to save the scared villagers. People were seeing vampires throughout the town, and were trying to stay away from danger. While looking for an adventure, the twins were strolling through the narrow streets on a cobble stone road in the heart of the town. On their journey to find adventure, the twins were walking down an alley covered in shadows. They were looking for vampires, when all of a sudden, they noticed a vampire who was sneaking out from behind a wall; he was creeping inside an open window. The twins were crouching behind some boxes in the alley, hoping that no one could see them. They were acting very brave, but inside, they were feeling very nervous. Moments later, the vampire was crawling out from the window with something in his arms. The vampire was being very quick and sneaky, but the twins were following closely behind. The vampire was acting very differently from what they had expected. He was carrying several things in his arms. Was he clutching bodies? What was he holding in his hands? He was moving very quickly considering the weight that he was carrying in his arms. The twins were staring at the vampire, trying to figure out what he was doing. The vampire was flying at times, and he was running at other times. He was going from house to house. The twins were pursuing his every movement, so that they could stop him from scaring the villagers. The twins could hear that the vampire was breathing very hard, as he was moving very, very quickly. The twins were hiding from his as best as they could - they were being as silent as possible. The twins were following him while he was entering and exiting houses, until the vampire arrived at one large seemingly abandoned building. The vampire was climbing the back stair case to a hidden doorway, being as sneaky as possible. Although the twins were being as brave as possible, the twins were afraid that the vampire would get away. They were moving quite quickly to keep up with the vampire, who was climbing the stairs and slipping into the building through a hidden door. Once the twins opened the door, they were blinded by bright lights, which were shining down on them. The lights were shining so brightly, that the twins could not see for a few moments. Gradually the twins were able to see, and they were shocked to find that they were looking at a room full of vampires. Hundreds and hundreds of vampires were sitting around a long raised platform. What were they seeing? What were they looking at? The vampires were sitting in a big group. They were drinking nice drinks, and they were eating interesting snacks. The vampires were enjoying themselves a lot. But what was happening? Vampires were walking up and down the long platform in the middle of the room. They were wearing some very interesting and colourful clothing. The vampires who were sitting closest to the platform, were taking photos of the other vampires who were walking down the long platform. The vampire who the twins were following, was wearing a golden cape with a lime green hat and a black outfit. He was holding a magnificent cane, and he was walking proudly down the long platform to loud music. The vampire wasn't trying to kill people. The vampire was simply borrowing clothing to wear for the fashion show! The twins were watching a vampire fashion show! The vampire that they 34 were following wasn't trying to suck people's blood. The vampire was trying to be fashionable! He was walking down a runway! The past progressive works well with description; if a class is working creatively to better use description in their writing, then it might be advantageous to impose a past progressive verb tense restriction. If a class is working on argumentative essays, then it might be advantageous to require a subjunctive or imperative verb tense. When introducing an additional language to students, the concept of verb tense becomes relevant and tangible. One of the benefits of telling stories within the constraint of a verb tense, is that students are forced to imagine possibilities within a very small world of options; they must become better acquainted with the verb tense, and through this selection process, they begin to understand which patterns belong to which verb tenses. 3.0 Applications and Implications of Constrained Writing "The existence of structures and constraints are powerful shaping forces in textual production and fluency. ,,7S Kedrick James, professor of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia eloquently expresses the following: "Given the strong emphasis procedural poetics places on language processes, procedural poetics, as a mode of inquiry and learning, belongs in classrooms, that is, writing as the reading of potentials that become visible under the focused attention on constraints and disciplined aesthetic selection of linguistic resources. This focus on a finite set of textual operations frees up the writer for the work of imagining meanings and experimenting with voicing, pacing, and word play."76 The emphasis on imagination is paramount: if students are to acquire the skills that we expect of them, then we are bound to give them the tools with which to accomplish the task. Patrick Bizarro highlights six skills useful in creative writing, and other English studies: being a good reader, understanding people, understand history, believing in the writing process, understanding audience, and employing various genres77 • While this is true of creative writing, a few more useful skills are required when attempting constrained writing: passion, determination, resourcefulness, and ingenuity. Behind every great educational movement, is a goal to fulfill a role that might have been somewhat lacking. Creative writing has been analyzed for its connection to other kinds of 75 Symes, page 1 76 James, Could be Inquiry, pages 3-4 77 Bizarro, pages 301-303 35 writing, most notably composition.78 Creative writing itself is an enormous discipline; constrained writing could in theory occupy its own discipline within English studies, but for now, most likely occupies a smaller, more modest corner under the branch of creative writing. While creative writing seeks improve a writer's ability to self-express, constrained writing does much the same, but via a different avenue. Jon Elster writes that "artists tend to maximize their options through minimizing their choices,,79 In this way, one of the implications of increased usage of constrained writing in the classroom, is an increased access to literary choice. However, this is not to say that every single work of constrained writing which is produced must become a masterpiece for it to hold any value - au contraire - "the potential of constraints is more important than their actual execution."80 Whether one is looking at creative writing or constrained writing, some educators would argue that the skill being practiced could easily be practiced through the use of a worksheet. At the very lowest, most basic and underappreciated level of argument, constrained writing is a creative way to replace a worksheet. While the advantages of constrained writing are as limitless as those of creative writing, it is, in most classrooms, a much more preferable way to practice a newly acquired literary skill, than by merely completing a worksheet. Once a student attempts to achieve a certain writing constraint, their knowledge base on that one particular grammatical or spelling point becomes magnified, and their knowledge on that topic becomes somewhat specialized: "According to the insights of cognitive science, one would predict that the writing of a sonnet or any constraint-bound literary form would also lead to a specialization of mental processes around their linguistic demands." 81 As such, once a student engages in a very specific writing process centered on one constraint, their entire mental process, arguably, changes. It would be difficult to find fault in the logic that a student, who successfully writes a constraint-based text, has not either learned something new, or changed the way in which they learned. From experience having taught constrained writing for the past six years in language classrooms, it has become quite apparent that students will recall constrained-writing texts that they wrote years previously, whereas their memory of linguistic worksheets remains far foggier. Thus, "the rediscovery of fixed forms and constraints is thus much more a matter of philosophy of writing than of technique."82 In this way, if a teacher chooses to use constrained writing within the classroom, then they are broadcasting the ways in which creative writing ties into their philosophy of education. Creative writing has not traditionally been an academic discipline,83 and as such, it has not always been clear what to teach when teaching creative writing.84 Patrick Bizarro writes that "creative writing was connected - that is, contextualized - through studies that revealed 78 Bizarro, page 306 79 Symes, page 1 80 Per/off, page 79 81 Symes, page 1 82 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 3 83 Bizarro, page 295 84 Bizarro, page 296 36 its similarities to other subjects in English studies, subjects other than literary study to which it was a loyal servant for more than one hundred years.,,8S What is perhaps a bit of a hindrance to the advancement of creative writing in general, is that over the past three decades, the individuals responsible for theorizing the educational merit of creative writing tried to argue that creative writing held an exclusive status within English language studies; however, their findings have not been able to delineate the differences of epistemology between creative writing and other disciplines that one would find in the English department.86 As a result, this has been a bit of a shadowed success; while the virtues of creative writing are now hailed throughout Canadian classrooms, the actual process of teaching creative writing is slightly unclear. To further compound this issue, constrained writing is now finding its way into classrooms in an attempt to teach creative writing; in essence, while the concept of creative writing is familiar to some educators, it is arguably too 'new' to have made its way into all classrooms. Given that the Oulipo movement began in the 1960's in France, it is still, remarkably, a French movement.87 As such, it will take time, and educators familiar with the movement to galvanize its position within the creative writing classroom. 3.1 From One Language to Another "A third poetic mode now prominent is what might be called translational poetics - a poetics for the twentyjirst century that has two poles: multilingualism on the one hand, exophonic writing on the other. ,,88 Perhaps one of the most creative and meaning-making exercises that one can attempt in poetry is any constraint-based text in which more than one language is considered. We currently live in an age in which monolingualism can be seen as a handicap; with the exception of only a handful of countries around the world, most nations have either multiple official languages, or multiple commonly spoken languages. Whether one is teaching constrained poetry in the native language classroom, an additional language classroom, or an immersion classroom, a constraint based on the use of bilingual homophonous poetry, or based on an additional language practice, can produce incredible results. Perhaps it is the continual infusion of international influences and multicultural underpinnings within our society, which create a virgin space in which only bilingual or multilingual poetry can occupy. "In a world of relentless global communication, poetry has begun to concern itself with the processing and absorption 85 Bizarro, page 308 86 Bizarro, page 300 87 From experience. Most websites dedicated to Oulipo writings are in French. Joining the Oulipo poetry sharing email list, my email inbox is absolutely inundated with constrained French poetry - over a two week period, not a single poem was to be found in English. If this is indicative of who is writing constrained poetry, then it is also indicative of where constrained poetry has not yet been implemented. 88 Perloff,16 37 of the 'foreign' itself, given the vagaries of travel and migration, whether of persons or of speech samples and forms of writing."s9 Consider the following poem:90 Explore. Vague satisfaction Aspire. Propose. Date. Simple sensation, pure situation, brave position Excellent stature, rare suggestion, possible supplication Turbulent. Juxtapose. Arrive. Terrible amateur, horrible amusement, long arsenal Silence, silhouette Ignore. Adore. Pose. Double tension, triple traction, second champion Certain fiasco, grand respect Hypocrite Whether one reads this poem in English or in French, there should be no difference in the way that it is written. The poem follows the rules of both French and English grammar. To create a bilingual homophonous poem, is to create a poem that can be understood in both languages, without appearing to belong originally to either one. Furthermore, constraints based on the level of the language, while seen as a foreign language, can poignantly strengthen the writer's linguistic abilities. One could write an entire poem (whether it be concrete, or more Oulipian-based) using uniquely feminine nouns, to explore creativity and frolic with linguistic experimentation: 89 Perloff, 129 90 Written by Emily Grant in 2010 38 c~ ........ c~ c:: I I- t: -C ' c::::::» ca --'-" c:,.:) '--.::::::J 'C . ~ -i i C1.:) C1.:) g ...c:::2 • c:a:: C1.:) ~ . § r ., ~ F Recompensa ~ ~ !Razon c U JI! <= C Reclamacioa C1 ., E' , , t • I I Reconciliacion i ,-, C t • While this poem certainly does not follow a traditional format, the freedom of form allows for the broadening of content. The choice to use only Spanish feminine nouns was deliberate, and created a very powerful presence of femininity within a grammatical context. Arguably, it appears that some of the more powerful nouns are situated within the realm of the male gender91 . As such, by creating a poem of this nature, the writer has complete freedom to portray the concept of femininity, and noun gender, as they wish. Depending on the nouns that are chosen, the concept of femininity and masculinity can be portrayed in very different lights. As such, the writer is in complete control to make the language 'their own'. While noun exploration in the native language is useful, the very notion of gendered nouns is quite foreign to many languages and language speakers. 92 Perhaps what is even more useful, is when a native speaker of a language without gendered nouns, confronts a language in which there exists gendered nouns, and even neutral nouns. The concept of gendered nouns can be explored in a safe and exciting manner, in which the writer is free to place their own bias on the poem that they create, simply by means of word choice. While also reinforcing proper grammar, the writer can be simultaneously celebrated for their unique perspective to a new target language. Although a second-language speaker might 91 From observation (and yes, there are a/ways exceptions). Here are a few examples to illustrate the ways in which many masculine nouns seem to have a more powerful undertone: power (el poder), government (el gobierno), control (el control), prestige (el prestigio), and money (el dinero). 92 Perl off 143 39 produce a sentence that is grammatically correct, the listener or reader might be able to perceive a certain foreignness to the writing, as the fluidity of the sentence, or specific word choice might seem peculiar. Often, it is a "shift in language registers"93 which signals an outsider's perspective. While in 'normal' classroom writing activities, this might be seen as incorrect and wrong, it is certainly something which can be celebrated within the realm of poetry, and creative writing. Often native-language writers struggle to avoid cliches94 in their writing; if a writer, writing in another target language (exophonic writing), conveys the same meaning using slightly awkward phrasing, this can create a somewhat fresh and unique way to express a familiar notion or feeling. This is not to say that students are free to butcher and adopt the language in whichever way that they see fit; writers simply cannot destroy semantic and formal properties of naturallanguage95 when they are writing; while they can have shorter, and choppier texts, the overarching semantic properties need to be adhered to. In this way, the writer does not have to feel like a foreigner within the new target language; they are welcome to make mistakes, knowing that they are not necessarily practicing the target language at the level of the sentence, but rather, at the level of the word itself. 96 Some students struggle with confidence when writing creatively; by removing the criteria of correct grammar, they are enabled to produce a poem which can focus solely on using nouns, or adjectives, thus allowing them more liberty to experiment, and to appreciate the language. As always, there is no requirement for a constraint to be set at a certain level - the constraint is simply a mechanism to pull forth original and imaginative material. It is not in the constraint that one finds success - it is in the pursuit of constraint that success is attained. Carlleggo, professor at the University of British Columbia writes: "I encourage all writers, whether English is their first language or an additional language, to write poetry, especially because poetry is a capacious genre that opens endless possibilities for expression and communication."97 Writing prose under constraint can be much more difficult than with poetry; the fluidity and flexibility of poetry make constrained writing an imaginative and creative, but feasible undertaking. 93 Perl off, 128 94 Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The Challenge of Constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634. 9S Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 4 96 Perloff, 143 97 Leggo, 93 40 3.2 Free Writing as Compared to Constrained Writing "Instead of a work that devalues its formal aspects in order to highlight its meaning, we would then hove a work in which meaning is devalued in order to highlight form. ,,98 It is not the intention of this analysis to propose that constrained writing replace other forms of free writing or creative writing; it is, however, the aim of this analysis to suggest that constrained writing supplement or complement other forms of writing instruction currently being used in the classroom. In all forms of formalized language instruction, there are areas in which some target goals cannot be met - this is the nature of language education. To avoid the debate between free writing as opposed to constrained writing, it is quite simply a matter of instructing both within the classroom. In this way, as much importance can be paid to what is written, versus how it is written. As an initial point of interest, when comparing free-style writing as opposed to constrained writing, "current research in cognitive science argues that constraints are conducive to creativity.,,99In addition, "the practice of writing, however, shows that the less 'liberal' situation ... in fact turns out to be the one with the greater potential to liberate the writer"lOO While this has already been discussed, it is important to note the subtle hint of irony: the more freedom the writer has, the more imprisoned they are within their own cell of pre-formed sentences and ideas; the more restricted the writer becomes, the more freedom and fun101 they experience within the literary world, liberating them of their satchel of go-to words and expressions. In constrained writing, "the subject is dominated by the process;,,102 this is a fantastic way to actually highlight the writing process, as opposed to simply spewing forth an onslaught of 'creative' thoughts, in which meaning has very little to do with the process or the form. One of the ways in which constrained writing benefits students, is that it forces them to write on topics that they might have never experienced before. It enables them to have access to new words and thoughts that perhaps they were unable to express in previous writing activities, or had never considered. "Instead of creating 'new' forms and meanings, free writing seemed only able to repeat itself and to reduce literature to a small set of endlessly repeated stereotypes,,103. Writing under constraint can often be so limiting, that the writer is forced away from cliches and stereotypes,l04 and into new lexical fields. This is most readily visible when a 98 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 4 99 Symes, page 1 100 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 5 101 Deming, 654 102 Baetens, Free Writing, Const rained Writing, page 7 103 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 3 104 Baetens, Free Writ ing, Constra ined Writing, page 5 41 writer suffers from writer's block. 105 How does this happen? The constraint can often be quite taxing, and thus slows down the writing process. As a result, the writer is not allowed to simply write on impulse106. By imposing a constraint upon the writer, the writer must seek out new content, or new ways to describe the content.107 We take away the expressions that we most often take for granted. Jacques Jouet outlines an interesting point: "I have never seen a single work in the Oulipian style (constrained, difficult, fastidious, obsessional, contagiously enthusiastic, and finally achieved) that did not, in the beginning, have a blind spot, where one sees no formal meaning, but only arbitrary constraint.,,108 While this may be true of constrained writing, it can also certainly be true of free writing; the birth of an idea often requires thorough editing and revision for the concept to take form. In free writing, the idea's beginning seems to be littered with notional possibilities, while in constrained writing, the idea's nascence seems to be littered with creative possibilities. 3.3 Constraints as Transformational "Selecting fragments, ordering, rearranging, editing, shaping, soon becomes engrossing, and this quality of becoming engrossed in the journey of discovery is essential for gleaning non-superficial knowledge. ,,109 Perhaps one of the most intriguing results to emerge from constrained writing, is its transformational quality.1l0 In free writing, the creative text seems to embody a reflection of the writer, while in constrained writing, it becomes a projection of the writer. As an example, when analyzing more traditional poetry within the classroom setting, one can observe students trying to understand how the poem reflects the poet, and how the poem indicates what the poet was trying to convey. As a bit of a shift, when analyzing (not simply creating) constrained poetry, students can be observed trying to understand how writing under a certain constraint might have changed the poet, and how the poem indicates that the poet was trying to become. While it is important to acknowledge that both can be said of any creative work, it is equally as important to concede that writing genres elicit certain reactions and parameters that are not typically shared among other genres and registers. 105 Jouet, With (and Without) Constraint, page 1 106 Deming, 655 107 While writing the poem 'Stuck in the Middle', I was unaware that I was writing on politics in the Middle East, until after I had amassed enough words which met the constraint. The content of the poem had not yet been decided until after most of the work had been completed . The content turned out to be quite a surprise. 108 Jouet, With (and Without) Constraint, page 13 109 James, Could be Inquiry, page 3 110 From observation and experience. I had been writing poetry since the age of eleven. It was not until the age of nineteen, until I was introduced to constrained writing, that my poems were no longer a reflection of me, but became a projection of myself. My constrained poetry changed my lens. 42 For example, it would not necessarily make for the best use of class time to analyze why a certain haiku poet chose to write in a typical haiku style, as opposed to writing a traditional ballad. Nor would it make sense to analyze why an author chose to use the first-person perspective, if they wrote a narrative. There are questions and literary analysis methods which are inherently bound to a certain genre and register. With constrained writing analysis, the student can go beyond asking how the work reflects the author, and move into the sphere of asking how the work changed the author, as forcibly, the author had to change their ideas to match the constraint. In this respect, IIcontext always transforms content;"111 if the content represents the individual creating the content, then the same can be said about the writer-that context changes the writer. On one final note, before incorporating constrained writing into a traditionally free writing classroom, it is important to ask why - what outcomes and goals is the teacher hoping to achieve by integrating both? In the twenty-first century classroom, there exists a heavy push towards teaching creative thinking, critical thinking, and independence. While constrained writing could never replace free writing (and the reverse is also true), constrained writing manages to aid in the push towards independent, critical thinkers: 1I0riginaiity, whether in the arts or sciences, is synonymous with novelty, invention, creativity, and independence of mind.',112 3.4 Writing and Reading One of the pedagogical considerations regarding constrained writing, is unquestionably, constrained reading, and the role that that has in acquiring reading skills. "Constrained writing helps one to see more clearly the inextricable relationship between writing and reading./l113 When reading a constrained text, the writer, and reader, must be more active114. While writing a constrained text can be difficult, decoding and deciphering a constraint text can be sometimes, just as difficult. Jan Baetens argues that "one can easily observe that constrained writing weakens the boundary between author and the reader. Such a change goes even further to demystify the author./l115 In this respect, students can begin to feel more empowered with their writing, and more confident in their skills as readers. When they are shown a text that has been deemed a masterpiece, the goal of writing a magnificent piece of work no longer seems intangible, as essentially, the 'criteria' for writing such a masterpiece seems more visible, and more attainable. The reader has the initial task of trying to decipher meaning, as they would do with any constraint-less document. However, due to the nature of the various constraints, it is quite possible that the meaning is deeply hidden, as the word choice is either vastly superior, or the 111 Perl off, 48 112 Perloff, 22 113 Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The Challenge of Constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634. 114 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 10 115 Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The Challenge of Constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634. 43 word selection is now much broader. The reader must make sense of new words, and new contexts, to allow for the writer's (sometimes adopted) poetic freedom. Constrained writing is not something that always must be appreciated for the output process; indeed, reading constrained writing also ameliorates some very important skills and levels of awareness.116 Not only must the reader navigate his or her way through a field of meaning, they are additionally confronted with an underlying task: to identify the way in which the constraint and the meaning and inextricably linked, as Ita text written according to a constraint describes the constraint."117 Regardless of the constraint, there is always going to be a relationship between the way in which the text was written, and the implied meaning. This is not to say that free-writing fails to create a relationship between the text and the meaning; constrained writing often has a plethora of unique features (aligned letters, double letters, palindromes, etc), that are usually only used either sparingly, or not at all, in free-writing. In this way, the reader is quite intentionally bombarded with (sometimes), hundreds of examples of the constraint (the Elision poem above, contains 61 words. For a small poem, the constrained reader has now been exposed to 61 examples of silent-letter words). For instance, when a reader is confronted with a text in which the entire poem is comprised of words containing silent letters, the reader is immediately assigned several tasks. Firstly, the student is challenged to find the constraint. To accomplish this, the student must perform a mental google-search of all of the different types of constraints with which he or she is familiar. If none immediately come to mind, then collaborative work might be necessary. Secondly, upon recognizing the constraint, the students is quite often eager to try to find fault or inconsistency with the constraint; they scan the text and analyze the writing in an attempt to prove that the writer failed at their task. While this is not always the case, there is certainly an element of verification which occurs, and a sense of competition and challenge. In this way, constrained readers act as an informal gateway, regulating the constrained writers. When students occupy both roles, the power of the constraint becomes amplified. Finally, the student is challenged to accept the constraint, as being integral to the meaning. This occupies a realm that is far beyond simply answering mono-syllabic responses to questions about a text; by either recognizing or interpreting a parallel between the form and the meaning of a text, the student is engaging with the text in a way that demonstrates higher level learning, thus occupying the role of a creative, critical thinker. 11 6 Baetens, Free Writing, Constrained Writing, page 10 117 Jacques Roubard, "Introduction: The Oulipo and Combinatorial Art", 38-39. 44 4.0 Bibliography Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2010). Constrained writing: an annotated bibliography of research. Poetics Today, 31(1), 127-150. Baetens, J., & Poucel, J. (2009). The challenge of constraint. Poetics Today, 30(4), 611-634 .. Baetens, J. (1997). Free writing, constrained writing: the ideology of form. Poetics Today, 18(1), 1-14 Bakhtin, M., & Medvedev, P. N. (1991). The formal method in literary scholarship: a critical introduction to sociological poetics. 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