Play with words

scrabble with the tiles "swap"

Susan Holbrook's most recent book was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry! She wants to wordplay with you. Try it!


A favourite exercise of mine is the “N+7” procedure invented by the European group Oulipo (Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle). Start with a found text (a poem, a newspaper article, a cereal box) and replace every noun with the word 7 entries away in the dictionary.  It's fun to vary that original experiment — find substitutions using a dictionary of musical terms, for example, or a beekeeper's handbook.  What results is often hilarious and outrageous but, surprisingly, often also revelatory or poignant. You might choose to begin shaping the work as you go, and give yourself a little leeway. Sometimes I like to choose words that are nearby in the dictionary, rather than adhere to the rigid constraint, once a thematic path begins to coalesce.
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