Oulipost # 11: Univocalism
And Canada walks a sad attack
And Canada lacks a plan
And Canada has a small, hard match
And Canada has art and a bag
And Canada was a scandal
And Canada was all scars
Press, Jordan, Spears, Tom and Maher, Stephen. “Brazeau arrested again, pleads not guilty.” The Ottawa Citizen. 11 April 2014. A1
Kennedy, Mark, Hurley, Meghan, and Mcgregor, Glen. “An Irish lion is gone.” Ibid. A1.
A univocalist text is one written with a single vowel. It is consequently a lipogram in all the other vowels. If he had been univocally minded, Hamlet might have exclaimed, “Be? Never be? Perplexed quest: seek the secret!” All words must be sourced from your newspaper.
I’m making this on the train, using a laptop I’ve never used before. The things I’ll do for poetry. That’s all the elaboration you’re getting today. I need a coffee.
What fascinates me about univocalism are the univocal translations, such as those published in the Oulipo Compendium. A poet named Tom King translates William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just To Say” as follows:
This is Jist Ti Siy
I hivi iitin
thit wiri in
yii wiri pribibli
thiy wiri dliliciis
in si cild
& then does it again with the letter o.
Of course Canada has our own univocalist: Christian Bök whose “Eunoia” (Coach House Books, 2004) is a univocalic masterpiece where every chapter has only one vowel.