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This article is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

Introduction Philip Terry
In late January 2020, before the full horror of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe had become apparent, I was sitting at a bar in Norwich with some fellow poets after a day spent at the National Centre for Writing to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Carcanet Press. I’d recently finished editing The Penguin Book of Oulipo, which someone brought up in conversation, and I mentioned in passing that 2020 was not only the fiftieth anniversary of Carcanet, but the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the Oulipo. It wasn’t long before Michael Schmidt suggested that I edit a supplement in PN Review on the group to celebrate the occasion, which I accepted at once. Carcanet Press, which evolved alongside PN Review, had itself been instrumental in the dissemination of Oulipian ideas in the UK, no doubt because their interest in international modernism found an echo in the Oulipo’s pursuit of new forms and structures. They had published the novels and poems of Harry Mathews, co-opted to the Oulipo in 1973 – among them The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium (1985), which Georges Perec had translated into French – and as far back as 1977 they had published poet Christopher Middleton’s Pataxanadu, one of the first books in English to experiment with the Oulipo’s N+7 method. They had also been the first press in the UK to publish the poems of Raymond Queneau, first in my own translation in 2007 of his seminal Elementary Morality, where he invents the poetic form built up from noun-adjective combinations called the quennet, ...


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