Stress the Prisoner
© Kay Davies, 2011
What is an OuLiPo? No, it isn't an oriental sea monster. It is a longstanding group of writers in France who believe writers can learn best within certain restraining parameters, in this case using only the letters of the alphabet which have no ascenders (b, d, k, etc.) or descenders (j, g, y, etc.).
This leaves us with a , c , e , m , n, o, r , s, v , w , x , z, according to Kenia of the writers' group Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads. I added the letters i and u, which seem to have been left out, giving me:
a , c , e , m , n, o, r , s, v , w , x , z, i, u.
This form, without ascenders and descenders, is called Stress the Prisoner, and presupposes a prisoner wanting to send a message on a very small piece of paper. The message doesn't necessarily have to mean "help, get me out of here" or "quick, bring me cigarettes" either.
If I haven't confused you sufficiently, Kenia will help. Just use the Real Toads link. She also mentioned other OuLiPo systems of constraint, and I am looking forward to trying the chimeric one called Sardinosaure (which makes more sense as a name in French than it does in English).
So, it is a fun exercise and who am I to argue if a group of French writers want to believe this creates a creative soul? I'm a Canadian, that's what I am, and anglophone Canadians are legislated not to disagree with the French.