Cheers and Thanks
Hello, everyone. Just writing to say that this entry constitutes my 60th post—and, alas, today marks the end of my contract at Harriet. I have enjoyed the bavardage with all of you—and for the last six months, I have very much appreciated the opportunity to provoke my readership more directly in dialogue. I certainly hope that the Poetry Foundation sees fit to replace me with yet another avant-garde troublemaker, since such a person stands to have a lot of fun causing mischief. I am going to end my tenure here with a few personal thoughts about my namesake—"the Book" (saying perhaps as much about me as about it…).
"Book" (B, double-O, K) is in fact my birthname, not "Bök" (B, O, K, with an umlaut), which is in fact my pseudonym. When people ask me: "Are you the Christian Bök"—I usually respond by saying: "No, that’s the Bible." With my credentials, I must sometimes endure the indignity of being called Dr. Book, a moniker that might call to mind some chemistry teacher referred to as Mr. Science on a Sunday-morn kiddie-show—("Tell us about Shakespeare, Dr. Book"). With a name like "Book," I also feel a minor sense of irony when declaring that the concept of the "book" remains extremely important to my own radical poetics, which has often striven to explode the formal limits of the book (its serialized words, its stratified pages), doing so as if in response to the demise of poetry itself. I often joke that, under such circumstances: "every book is my voodoo doll.…"
While I have often situated myself within the clandestine inheritance of the avant-garde, I do so, not to pay homage to a noble, if passé, revolution, but to see poetry itself become a kind of research facility—a "skunkworks," where poets can reverse-engineer the alien technology of language. For me, the idea of the "book" has becoming something more than a temporal sequence of words and pages; for me, the book no longer even has to take the form of codices, scrolls, tablets, etc.—but might instead become indistinguishable from buildings, machinery, or even organisms. The book has become a weird object that may not exist at all, except at the moment of its reading, for until then it always pretends to be something else (a stack of paper, a piece of décor, etc.). The poetry of the future might even resemble a weird genre of science-fiction—a hybrid fusion of technical concepts and aesthetic conceits, all written for inhuman readers that have not yet evolved to read it….
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari remark that each book must lay itself out upon a "super plane," a vast page, doing so both extensively and expansively, without the internal closures of a codex. The book must not simply imitate the world, replicating the condition of both the real and the true; instead, the book must burgeon into the world, like a horrible parasite, exfoliating beyond itself, evolving along its own trajectory, against the grain of truth and being. I have thus striven to make my own work as exploratory as possible, letting language itself discover its own potential for innovation. I want to do my best to establish a basis for experimental literature in a country that has yet to develop much of any indigenous admiration for our avant-garde tradition, and I have always hoped that the adroitness of my own brand of pataphysics might be perceived as an embodiment, not of ennui, but of "eunoia"—an exercise in delirious restraint that performs an act of "beautiful thinking…."
Cheers and thanks,
Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and of Eunoia (Coach House Books, 2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence. Bök has created artificial...