Hundred Thousand Billion Poems
Raymond Queneau’s A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems or One Hundred Million Million Poems (original French title: Cent mille milliards de poèmes), published in 1961, is a set of ten sonnets. They are printed on card with each line on a separated strip, like a heads-bodies-and-legs book, a type of children’s book with which Queneau was familiar. As all ten sonnets have not just the same rhyme scheme but the same rhyme sounds, any lines from a sonnet can be combined with any from the nine others, so that there are 1014 (= 100,000,000,000,000) different poems. It would take some 200,000,000 years to read them all, even reading twenty-four hours a day. When Queneau ran into trouble while writing the poem(s), he solicited the help of mathematician Francois Le Lionnais, and in the process they initiated Oulipo.