In 1961, the poet Jacques Roubaud was dismissed by the French military in Algeria after undergoing a series of “clandestine hunger strikes,” an act he later referred to as his “very first constraint.” By using a term that at once refers to a particular and increasingly prevalent resistance act, the rules and procedures used by post–World War II avant-garde artists and writers, and oppressive structures like prisons that delimit lives, “constraint” provides a way to rethink the history of avant-garde procedural poetry through the act of the hunger strike. This essay analyzes the constraint as a “score,” a method of making that allows for the repeatability and transformation of forms across contexts. This repetition with a difference is underscored by a cast of 1960s and 1970s writers from France, the United States, and Morocco, including Roubaud, Norman H. Pritchard, Bernadette Mayer, Saïda Menebhi, and Abdallah Zrika. Foregrounding the hunger strike and seeing an aesthetics that accords with this provocative and popular act, this essay makes a case for avant-garde practice, rather than the avant-garde object, as acts that might not only reorganize everyday life into weapons and tools, but also thread trans-national possibilities of solidarity through a shared political form.

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