From Our Soundbooth | April 07, 2016

This week on The Missouri Review Soundbooth Podcast, we had the opportunity to speak with Christian Bök.

Bök is a conceptual poet at the forefront of the avant-garde. His collections of poetry include Crystallography (Coach House Books, 1994), which was nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a lipogram that uses only one vowel in each of its chapters, which received the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Most recently, he is the author of The Xenotext: Book 1 (Coach House Books, 2015). For this project, which he has worked on for the past 15 years, Bök has encoded a poem (“Orpheus”) into the genome of a germ. In reply, the cell builds a protein that encodes yet another poem (“Eurydice”). After having illustrated this idea in E. coli, Bök plans to insert his poem into a deathless bacterium, thereby writing an immortal text. The Xenotext is a “primer” for this project.

Bök is also a sound poet and conceptual artist. He has produced numerous artist’s books, including books made entirely of Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks, and has invented languages for science-fiction television shows. He lives in Alberta, Canada, and is currently a professor of English at the University of Calgary.

In the interview, Bök says, “Everybody is a bad poet in the same way, but everybody is a good poet in their own unique way.” Tune in to hear him elaborate, as well as to hear us discuss the relationship between literature and science, the role of form in experimental poetics, the “stupidity” of poets, and more!

Interview conducted by Leanna Petronella, Sera Holland, and Carlotta Battelli.

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