Advanced theoretical and applied poetics.

The Fitzpatrick-O’Dinn Award for the Best Book Length Work of Formally Constrained English Literature

Judge: Christian Bök
Deadline: December 31st, 2003
“an Oulipian writer is like a hurdler sprinter who runs faster when there are hurdles on the track”—Italo Calvino


In 2004, Spineless Books will award the Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn Award for the Best Book Length Work of Constrained English Literature to an exemplary work of experimental literature.

A constraint is a systematic writing technique or overt formal structure. Examples of constrained writing include certain classical poetic forms (the sestina), classical forms not always considered poetic (the palindrome), as well as a potentially endless variety of techniques both known (the lipogram) and yet undiscovered.

Canonical examples include Walter Abish's Alphabetical Africa (an alphabetic acrostic using words beginning only with certain letters), Christian Bök's Eunoia (a univocalic poetry cycle in which each of five sections excludes four of the five vowels A E I O and U), Kenneth Goldsmith's No. 111 2.7.93-10.20.96 (a book composed of fragments of text a particular number of syllables in length), Doug Nufer's Never Again (a nonpattern novel that never repeats a word), and the two novels Gadsby, by Ernest Vincent Wright, and Georges Perec's A Void (both lipograms disallowing the letter E). For more examples, see

The winner of the Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn Award will be selected by Christian Bök, author of Crystallography (Coach House, 1994), the univocalic poem Eunoia (Coach House, 2001), and winner of the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence.

Manuscripts must be unpublished, at least 48 pages, and typewritten or word-processed. Enclose a separate title page including the title, the author’s contact information, and an explanation of the constraint(s) used.

Mail manuscripts to the address below postmarked on or before the deadline of December 31st, 2003. You will receive a confirmation postcard when we receive your manuscript and payment. Enclose a SASE if you would like to receive notification of the winner. Manuscripts will not be returned except by special arrangement.

Include a $20 entry fee. You may submit multiple manuscripts if you include a separate entry fee and title page for each manuscript. Make checks to Spineless Books. Or pay by credit card through PayPal below. Electronic submissions are accepted through floppy disc, Zip disc, CD-ROM, or URL.

Works will be judged on their literary quality as well as their elegance, innovation, and rigor.

The winning manuscript will be published artfully by Spineless Books as a book (with a spine), and in an electronic format that complements the form. We will work with the author to give the work the best presentation possible.

Edwin Fitzpatrick was a legendary 19th Century poet, the first writer we know of to have dabbled in serial techniques such as Twenty Consonant Poetry. Pontius O'Dinn was an experimental novelist born in 1951 who made use of various innovative formal techniques, including combinatorics, homosyntactic transcription, and an acrostic technique derived from the Fibonacci series. The Fitzpatrick-O'Dinn Award is named in honor of these two daring experimentalists.

Direct questions to William.

Spineless Books.

We admit it: the poets after whom the contest are named were both fabrications. Pontius O'Dinn is an invention of Warren Motte. Edwin Fitzpatrick is a fabrication of Howard Bergerson. We think and have always thought this, though, of course, we cannot prove that these people never really existed. That they were contrivances does not for us in any way diminish the significance of their contributions to literature, as their books are not much harder to find than those of many experimental poets who are known to have existed. Perhaps these nonexistent poets represent the next phase of English Studies: pure literary criticism dispensing with literature altogether.