Oulipo in Hong Kong: Welcoming unconventional forms in poetry writing workshops

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This essay explores the use of constraint-based writing methods for poetry writing workshops at the tertiary level in Hong Kong. The author draws on his experience teaching writing techniques adapted from the Oulipo tradition and finds that such strategies permit students to encounter poetry writing in a foreign language less as a monumental effort and more as approachable play. These strategies also help to equalize the experience of writing poetry for all students because, although their abilities in English may vary, they must all contend with the same unconventional forms; and such forms open up the writing process to serendipitous discoveries by estranging the experience of writing a poem. The essay includes examples of student writing that engages constraint-based writing, and it contextualizes these methods by way of Rita Felski’s (2015) arguments about renewing literary studies. Constraint-based writing, especially in the Hong Kong context, is a valuable method of teaching poetry writing and expanding students’ perceptions of what a poem can be. The use of imitation, which lies at the heart of such activities, entails an affective response in students that opens the possibility for its deployment in the literature classroom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPoetry in Pedagogy
Subtitle of host publicationIntersections Across and Between the Disciplines
EditorsDean A. F. Gui, Jason S. Polley
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781003089377
ISBN (Print)9780367544515
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2021


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