Browsing through Stride Magazine, I came across some recent poems by Andy Brown, a poet who, as I’m sure I’ve said before on these pages, I usually like. Here’s the introduction:
“These riddles are written using the OuLiPo technique of 'Edges'(1) - a form of riddle conjuring presence through absence and whose subjects are revealed by word association alone. Each riddle is composed around a subject that is entirely represented by other words commonly associated with it. Neither the subject word, nor any other extraneous words appear in the body of the poem. Each riddle was composed using word associations taken from The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English and has a subject taken from nature.”
Now I’m always a bit wary of poetry that’s more concerned with the writing process than the end result. That can apply to mainstream poetry every bit as much as more experimental stuff – witness the number of villanelles you see that really are nothing more than writing workshop exercises. And, I’d have to say, I often feel that about Stride editor Rupert Loydell’s work. I agree with him when he says that poets, first and foremost, need to get on and write, and that often a set process is a good way of doing so, but too often I find myself thinking that, frankly, his prolific output is at the expense of consistent quality.
But, to get back to Brown’s poems. I liked them, and I like the whole “conjuring presence through absence” idea behind them too, so my usual misgivings were quickly dispelled. But I couldn’t help thinking that they’d work even better, and be a lot more riddle-like, if they were untitled. Or am I being a bit thick?
Anyway, I’ve stashed the idea in my Must Have A Go At This When I Have A Spare Moment File, but if anyone out there fancies beating me to the punch, send your results in, and I’ll publish a few sometime.