December 5, 2008

Christian Bok

Christian Bök [Canada]

Christian Bök has spent most of his childhood in the community of Georgetown, Ontario, but he has gone on to spend much of his adulthood in Toronto. Bök has earned degrees in English at both Carleton University in Ottawa and York University in Toronto, and currently he teaches in the Department of English at the University of Calgary, where he directs courses on poetics.

Bök has created artificial languages for two television shows: Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon. Bök has also earned many accolades for his virtuoso renditions of sound poetry. His conceptual artworks (which include books built out of Rubik’s Cubes and Lego Bricks) have appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City.

Crystallography, his first book of poetry, is a kind of pataphysical encyclopedia about the “lucid writing” of mineralogy—and while this avant-garde work of literature has earned critical acclaim (receiving a nomination for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best poetic debut in 1995), Bök owes much of his international renown to the release of his second book, Eunoia.

“Eunoia” is the shortest word in English to contain all five vowels, and the word literally means “beautiful thinking.” Inspired by the rulebound literature of Oulipo (the French coterie of poets), Eunoia consists of a univocal lipogram—a story written in five chapters, each of which uses only one vowel exclusively (the first chapter using only A, the second chapter using only E, etc.).

Eunoia has become a bestseller in Canada, and the work has since won the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök notes that, in much of his work, “the text makes a Sisyphean spectacle of its labor, willfully crippling its language in order to show that, even under such improbable conditions of duress, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought.”


Crystallography (Toronto: Coach House Press, 1994); Eunoia (Toronto: Coach House Books, 2001)

For a large selection of audio and visual performances by the poet, click below:
Watch a reading by Christian at the link below:</
Watch a reading from Eunoia at the link below:

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English

Ten Maps of Sardonic Wit

atoms in space now drift
on a swift and epic storm

soft wind can stir a poem
into a scant prism of dew

words spin a faint comet

some words in fact paint
two stars of an epic mind

manic words spit on fate

Reprinted from New American Writing, no. 23 (2005). Copyright (c) 2005 by Christian Bok.

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