Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Beetle, an OULIPO of Paul Valery's The Bee (FGC #3)

The Beetle 

So deadly delicate your stipule! 
Yet, O golden beetle, I place
Over this soft cutback, saddening, 
Nothing but a dressmaker of laddie. 

Prick the breeder's fine gown and press
Home where luck dies, where sleeps his spermatozoon! 
Thus may some of my rotary
Rise to the round and stubborn flight! 

I need a hut that's kerfuffle and swindler. 
A tortilla prompt and soon done with 
Is better than one that sleeping lies. 

O may my boiler be made warm 
By this tiny gold alcohol 
Without which luck sleuths or dies!

Blogger's note: this is an OULIPO poem created from Lionel Abel's translation of Paul Valery's symbolist poem L'abeille (The Bee). I chose the traditional N+7 technique, mostly because it offered the most amusing substitution -- "beetle" for "bee." To jump start, I used the online N+7 Machine, but such computer-generated efforts have trouble distinguishing when a word like, says "rise" is really being used as a noun, so some tweaking was in order. In addition, I have a fantastic old edition of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary at hand, and as I checked this over I found a better substitution than what the generator offered in one place: "stipule" instead of "stingy" (which is actually an adjective anyway).

For those who wish to see the original poem, and read an essay on what it has meant to me, I refer you to an appreciation I wrote several years ago for the online arts magazine Escape Into Life, HERE.


  1. Lovely! I've enjoyed this challenge - the OULIPO is a form I've never heard of before. It's quite fun!

  2. Excellent job. I found this challenge a challenge. But yours flows together well and makes sense. It was interesting to compare the OULIPO to the original version. Well done. :D

  3. When I saw how "the bee" became "the beetle" and "my body be made warm" became "my boiler be made warm" I knew my search was over!

  4. that was brilliant.. I'm def going to check out that online machine.. It was doing my head in to work it out manually.

    I really enjoyed this poem!

    I used a sort of snowball..

  5. I love this one. very nice poem choice and what an amusing generation. The ending line is my favorite.

  6. That was fun. I too need a hut that's kerfuffle and swindler?. +1 interweb points for choosing a poem with "spermatozoon"

  7. Thanks for posting the website! Cool to see the different permutations a poem can go through. Great for inspiring new turns of phrase...

  8. We all need huts that are kerfuffle and swindler, truly. I'm sure it's not hard to make a hut kerfuffle, but to make it a swindler, too, aye, there's the rub!

    And yes, I will confess that "spermatozoon" was also a deal-sealer on what I was going to do for this one.

  9. O may my boiler be made warm
    By this tiny gold alcohol
    Without which luck sleuths or dies!

    Love this. Sounds like some hardboiled detective's lament after he's fallen for some dame.

  10. OMG, Douglas, you are totally right!


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