Christian Bök

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Christian Bök
Bök reading from Eunoia at the University of York
Bök reading from Eunoia at the University of York on May 19, 2011
BornChristian Book
(1966-08-10) August 10, 1966 (age 56)
EducationB.A, M.A, PhD
Alma materCarleton University
Notable worksEunoia
Notable awardsGriffin Poetry Prize 2002

Christian Bök, FRSC (/bʊk/; born August 10, 1966 in Toronto, Canada) is a Canadian poet known for unusual and experimental works. He is the author of Eunoia, which won the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize.

Life and work[edit]

He was born "Christian Book", but uses "Bök" as a pseudonym.

He began writing seriously in his early twenties, while earning his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Carleton University in Ottawa. He returned to Toronto in the early 1990s to study for a Ph.D. in English literature at York University, where he encountered a burgeoning literary community that included Steve McCaffery, Christopher Dewdney, and Darren Wershler-Henry. As of 2005 he teaches at the University of Calgary. As of 2022 He teaches at Charles Darwin University in Melbourne, Australia. [1]

In 1994, Bök published Crystallography, "a pataphysical encyclopaedia that misreads the language of poetics through the conceits of geology." The Village Voice said of it: "Bök's concise reflections on mirrors, fractals, stones, and ice diabolically change the way you think about language — his, yours — so that what begins as description suddenly seems indistinguishable from the thing itself."[2] Crystallography was reissued in 2003,[2] and was nominated for a Gerald Lampert Award.

Bök is a sound poet and has performed an extremely condensed version of the "Ursonate" by Kurt Schwitters. He has created conceptual art, making artist's books from Rubik's Cubes and Lego bricks. He has also worked in science-fiction television by constructing artistic languages for Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley's Amazon.


Bök is most famous for Eunoia (2001), a book which took him seven years to write.[2] Eunoia consists of univocalics: The book uses only one vowel in each of its five chapters. In the book's main part, each chapter used just a single vowel, producing sentences such as this: "Enfettered, these sentences repress free speech."[3] Bök believes "his book proves that each vowel has its own personality, and demonstrates the flexibility of the English language."[4]

Edited by Darren Wershler-Henry and published by Coach House Books, in 2001, Eunoia won the 2002 Griffin and sold 20,000 copies.[5] Canongate published "Eunoia" in Britain in Oct. 2008.[6] The book was also a bestseller there, reaching #8 on the Top 10 bestselling charts for the year.[5]

The Xenotext experiment[edit]

The Xenotext is an ongoing work of BioArt which claims to be “the first example of ‘living poetry.’”[7] The central experiment is twofold: first, a poem is encoded as a sequence of DNA which is then implanted into a viable bacterium; second, the bacterium reads this sequence of DNA and produces a protein that, according to the initial cipher, is also an intelligible poem. The final product, according to Bök in a 2007 interview, will include:

a poetic manual that showcases the text of the poem, followed by an artfully designed monograph about the experiment, including, for example, the chemical alphabet for the cipher, the genetic sequence for the poetry, the schematics for the protein, and even a photograph of the microbe, complete with other apparati, such as charts, graphs, images, and essays, all outlining our results. [8]

Bök is collaborating with laboratories at the University of Calgary, DNA 2.0, and the University of Wyoming to realize his design.[9] In 2011, nine years after conceiving The Xenotext experiment, Bök announced the university’s labs had performed a successful test run of his “poetic cipher,” meaning that:

when implanted in the genome of [the] bacterium, [the] poem (which begins ‘any style of life/ is prim…’) does in fact cause the bacterium to write, in response, its own poem (which begins ‘the faery is rosy/ of glow…’). [10]

In 2015, The Xenotext: Book I was published. This first volume, consisting of meditations on science, poetry, human intervention, and myth, “sets the conceptual groundwork for the second volume, which will document the experiment itself.”[7]The Xenotext: Book II remains forthcoming.

The Kazimir Effect[edit]

Since 2017, Bök has been working on a visual poetry project inspired by Suprematist Composition: White on White by Kazimir Malevich. This project culminated in the publication of a book titled The Kazimir Effect (Penteract Press, 2021), which was listed as one of the Times Literary Supplement’s Books of the Year 2021.


Eunoia won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002.[11]

Bök's poem "Vowels" was used in the lyrics of a song on the EP A Quick Fix of Melancholy (2003) by the Norwegian band Ulver.[citation needed]

In 2006, Christian Bök and his work were the subject of an episode of the television series Heart of a Poet, produced by Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge.[12]

On May 31, 2011, The BBC World Service broadcast Bök reading "The Xenotext."[13]


  • Crystallography. Coach House (1994) ISBN 978-1-55245-119-9
  • Eunoia. Coach House Books (2001) ISBN 1-55245-092-9 - winner of the 2002 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize
  • Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science. Northwestern University Press (2001) ISBN 978-0-8101-1876-8 - See ’Pataphysics
  • The Xenotext (Book 1). Coach House Books (2015) ISBN 978-1-55245-321-6
  • The Kazimir Effect. Penteract Press (2021) ISBN 978-1-913421-11-3
As editor
Included in

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Xenotext Experiment: An Interview with Christian Bök
  2. ^ a b c Ed Park, "Crystal Method," Village Voice, Dec. 16, 2003.
  3. ^ Shelburne, Curtis K. (2008-10-16). "God writes his love in one word | love, writes, one - Faith and Lifestyles - Clovis News Journal". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  4. ^ "BBC - Today". BBC News. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2012-01-14.
  5. ^ a b "Calgary poet hits U.K. bestseller list". 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  6. ^ "Literary Life". Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-01-14.[dead link]
  7. ^ a b Bök, Christian (2015-10-05). The Xenotext: Book 1. Coach House Books. ISBN 978-1-77056-434-3.
  8. ^ Christian Bök (2007). "The Xenotext Experiment: An Interview with Christian Bök". PostModern Culture. Retrieved 2022-04-19.
  9. ^ What is Xenotext? | Christian Bök | Walrus Talks, retrieved 2022-05-03
  10. ^ Christian Bök (2011-04-02). "The Xenotext Works". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2022-04-19.
  11. ^ Griffin Prize and Winners Britannica, 2017, Retrieved 16/04/18
  12. ^ Heart of a Poet: Season 1 Archived February 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "BBC iPlayer - The Strand: 31/05/2011". Retrieved 2012-01-14.

External links[edit]