David Boeving reviews Christian Bök

Another review of Christian Bök’s recent BathHouse reading, this time by EMU student David Boeving:

Christian Bök opened his performative reading at the Eastern Michigan University’s Sponberg Theatre on the 19th of October by warming his vocal chords on stage via two covers of Dada poems that would leave most normal human beings stumbling over their syllables and gasping for air. What most people would be wholly unable to possibly read, even nonverbally, Bök performed with haste and ease. Through these poems, the Canadian author established himself immediately as a spoken force to be dealt with. This opening to his reading, quickly affirmed the author as an intense performer.

After the two initial works read, Bök proceeded to guide the audience through the furthest possibilities of the human dialect. Reading mostly from his masterpiece of conceptual and creative writing, “Eunoia,” the poet proceeded to provide the audience with an even sampling of each of the novel’s chapters, performing each in a voice that matched the ‘color’ of that individual chapter’s vowel. Along with the differing voices applied to the sections read from the divergent chapters, came also a matching physicality. Between his movements, and his tonal selection, the sections that he read (most of which seemed young and playful, as to match the audience), were brought into a new light that cannot exist on the page. This sampling of each letter’s color, greatly inspired by Arthur Rimbaud, guided the audience, both of which had and had not yet read the text, through the possible personalities of the English language.

After reading a number of translations of the poetry found the, ‘Vowels,’ section of “Eunoia,” as well as some of his more recent work (including a poem waiting to encoded on bacteria that will synthesize another poem in the form of a protein), Bök proceeded to close the reading with another work of Dadaism. According to Bök, the poem generally takes forty minutes to read, yet he claimed to be able to complete the whole in ten. Reading quickly, as he did most of the performance, the author provided the audience with a triumphant coda to the night, as it appeared that he existed immune to making any sort of mistake at all as he read a large section of the already lengthy, and tough work. At that point, the reading had come full circle, completing its tour of the authors wide range of poetic endeavors. It is easy to say that I left in sheer astonishment, and my feeling was only reaffirmed as another audience member that was existing at the same time as I said something along the lines of, “I feel like I just listened to another language for an hour.”