Tournoi Oulipchien


Here is an excerpt of the note written by Andre Alexis at the end of his book explaining how he wrote his poems. These constrains are of course respected in the translations of the “poèmes oulipchiens”.

The poems in Fifteen Dogs are written in a genre invented by François Caradec for the Oulipo. It was invented after François Le Lionnais, a founder of the group, wondered if it were possible to write poetry that has meaning for both humans and animals. In Fifteen Dogs, each poem is what Caradec called a ‘Poem for a dog.’ That is, in each poem the name of a dog will be audible – to the listener or to the dog – if the poem is said aloud, though the name is not legible. Here is an example by Harry Mathews. It is a poem written for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, Flush: 

My Mistress never slights me

When taking outdoor tea

She brings sweet cake

For her sweet sake

Rough, luscious bones for me.

In Mathews’s poem, between the words rough and luscious, the name Flush can be heard. In the same way, each of the poems in Fifteen Dogs contains one of the dogs’ names.

The PDF shows the results of a translation tournament in which four translators present their translation of each poem. You can also try to translate them.

For each poem, there are three pages. The first one contains the poem along with the list of the dogs’ names so you can try to find whose name is in this particular poem. The second one has said name highlighted in red, and the third with the translations of the four jousters, always displayed in the same order, as indicated at the beginning of the PDF. 

Santiago Artozqui

Santiago Artozqui writes short stories, essays, poetry, and translates from Spanish and English into French. Former literary critic in La Quinzaine littéraire, he now writes in En attendant Nadeau, a web literary review. He teaches creative writing at the university Paris 7 Diderot, and is president of ATLAS, an organization for the promotion of literary translation. He’s also old and not funny, too bad for him.