Oulipo stands for “Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle/Potential Literature Workshop.” Among the many interesting procedures developed by the Oulipo school is the “S+7” method, where each noun in a given text, such as a poem, is replaced by the noun to be found seven places away in a chosen dictionary. Here is an example of such a poem:
The extract, from Blake:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
The transformed version, using S + 7:
To see a Worm in a Grampus of Sandblast
And a Hebe in a Wild Flu
Hold inflow in the palsy of your hangar
And Ethos in an housefly.
And here is a version of s+7, by Harryette Mullen, from her book Sleeping With The Dictionary. She has taken Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 130, and replaced the key words with phrases from, I dunno . . . perhaps, the ads section from a newspaper or telephone book? The resulting poem, I think, makes some interesting commentary on contemporary notions of race, beauty and consumerism; as well as being kinda funny.
My honeybunch's peepers are nothing like neon. Today's special at Red Lobster is redder than her kisser. If Liquid Paper is white, her racks are institutional beige. If her mop were Slinkys, dishwater Slinkys would grow on her noggin. I have seen tablecloths in Shakey's Pizza Parlors, red and white, but no such picnic colors do I see in her mug. And in some minty-fresh mouthwashes there is more sweetness than in the garlic breeze my main squeeze wheezes. I love to hear her rap, yet I'm aware that Muzak has a hipper beat. I don't know any Marilyn Monroes. My ball and chain is plain from head to toe. And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who's hyped beyond belief.
Exercise: Choose an existing poem that interests you, and a standard dictionary (or other word text). Transform the poem using S+7, replacing every noun with the noun seven places below it in the dictionary.