The first writer to talk extensively with me about literary constraints, particularly those derived of the French OuLiPo movement, was the exquisite poet Sarah Messer. Before she left academia to become a cheese maker in Ann Arbor, Sarah was my professor. And mentor. And dear, dear friend.
In the past week, I've had two groups of students work with lipograms. First in a Master Class for the Southern Humanities Review in Alabama, and then with my undergraduates back home in North Carolina. I wish it were possible to present you with the results from that class in Auburn, especially since the only text I had with me was my novella (which, torn up, gave everyone in the room something to recast), and especially because so many of their lipograms were startlingly beautiful--far more interesting and lyric than my original sentences.
What I do happily have, however, is the result of a recent exercise wherein a group of brilliant undergraduates divvied up the lines of Sarah's "Prayer from a Mouse" and rewrote them under the constraints of a classic lipogram. Which is to say that students were to rewrite their assigned lines with language that did not include a single use of the letter 'e.'
Below is Sarah's "Prayer from a Mouse," which I happen to reread every week. Beside it is the version my students created on the fly. With great thanks to Sarah for teaching me, so I could teach them.