if ('class topics' != 'syllabus')
Logging On (posted 26 January 2004)
Introduction to the course.
Reading: Raymond Queneau, One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems: http://www.bevrowe.info/Poems/QueneauRandom.htm.
I found this work interesting mathmatically and logically, but as poetry, it lacked significance. I'd imagine this is why there were so few comments about the possible meaning of the poem in class--perhaps this implies that without authorial intent, a text lacks meaning.
The few sonnets I have read from the work seem to lack a coherent or reachable meaning. O have yet to read the "10 original sonnets". Perhaps they, a complete wholes will yeild a more approachable interpretation.
Yet there /was/ authorial intent by Queneau when he wrote the ten sonnets and presented them in this specific form. It's just a matter of what that intent might be; and like much good poetry, that intent is not necessarily obvious or easily accessible.
I think we have to start by saying 'okay, Why present it like this?' maybe what you say IS his point, that random mismatches of lines can't produce meaningful work. But I believe if an author goes to the effort of presenting something to you, he has SOME point to make.
I agree that authorial intent exists for the work as a whole. However, the sonnets (excluding the original 10) as individual texts lack authorial intent.
It is not possible for Queneau to know the content of each of the poems, as he could not have read nor composed them all. (The act of composing them lies in the hands of the reader or medium). Therefore, he did /not/ write each of those sonnets (simply the individual lines which constitute them), and his intent is lacking from them. These poems are more akin to "found" poetry than to anything else--it is the reader (or medium) who "finds" and assembles the poem from a set of preexisting textual pieces.
Good comments here. One additional variable to keep in mind is the translation--the text was originally written in French. The translation provided for the online version is not, to me, the most effective (words like "schlock" don't really ring true). The best English translation is by Stanley Chapman, in a book called The Oulipo Compendium.
His intent may not have been so much in the meaning of each individual poem, but just to simply (or not so simply) show the diversity of language, even when constrained to the form of a poem. I do not know a great deal about poetry or this poet, but to me it could even be a mockery of some of the meaningless poetry he has encountered. By showing the reader that a number of given lines can take on the form of a poem, even many of the same lines, he gives me the impression that poetry can in fact be quite meaningless.
I must say that I completely agree with Joey. I think that this set of poems is more about showing us the diversity of language and could definitely be seen as a mockery. It seems more like a mathematical formula showing all the possible arrangements of each line in the sonnet format. To me, it feels random and seems a bit meaningless. These sonnets donít make a lot of sense and maybe thatís the point of "the game," but I definitely see it as showing the diversity of language and almost proving that it doesnít have to make sense.
Iím sorry for my random stream of consciousness but I hope my comment is understandable
The thing i would like to know was which poem was the poets favor, if any? Was there a paticular poem that he loved?? I also wonder how he actually thought all this up?
Also, i would like to mention that even though i think the idea is genius, i still agree with some of you in saying that many of the poems that ive encountered do not make much sense. But i believe that all poems rely on the reader. The text could intend to be totally random or make a specific point by the poet, but if the reader doesn't see the randomness or the message that intended way, then it doesn't matter what the authors intent was.
Hope i made some sense.
Andrew asks a good question about Queneau's background ("how did he think this up?") He was part of a French literary movement known as the Oulipo, about which we'll be hearing much more over the next few weeks. In the meantime, in regard to the question of which poem was Queneau's favorite: the answer is that he could not possibly have read all, or even a statistitically significant portion, of his own work!