EMU student Reid Raham reviews Christian Bök ‘s recent BathHouse reading:
For a writer such as Christian Bök, the meat of the poetry is less in the content and more in the delivery and style. As such, while reading his work from a page might give an appreciation for his creativity, a few of the finer details might be lost. Bök’s writing could almost be called music: reading it is one thing, while hearing it performed is quite another. Bök himself seems to understand this, as his current fascination with sound poetry suggests – his work-in-progress “Cyborg Opera”, some of which was performed in Sponberg Theater on October 19, draws its meaning from the performance.
Indeed, the song is a central theme in many of Bök’s works. Two of the more obvious examples would be “Doomsday Song” – a dark-sounding piece filled with ‘-oom’ sounds that is meant to represent the death of Superman at the hands of the villain Doomsday – and “Alien Hymn” – a serene poem done in an alien language Bök created for science fiction guru Gene Roddenberry. Even in poems not so obviously musical, Bök’s delivery and body language evokes both band and conductor, falling into rhythmic meter with his voice while keeping time with the motions of his body.
Beyond the musical aspect of his performance, Bök’s impassioned performances lend much to his works. On paper, his collection Eunoia – a series of five poems, each composing a coherent story through the use of a single vowel per tale – is no doubt impressive; however, certain vowels have certain speeds to them, and even a careful reader might accelerate through the passages too fast – or, inversely, find the reading slow. In contrast, hearing Bök reading it aloud clearly brings out each vowel’s personality, not only through intonation but also with facial expressions and body motions. Bök’s familiarity with his own work allows him to pace the words in the intended way, and this serves to accentuate the subtleties within the poems.
Bök is no doubt one of the most creative writers in recent memory, but the full force of his works comes out in the performance. Bök’s mastery of both written and spoken language is enthralling, and his true talent appears when both are combined. His enthusiasm, raw talent, and immense control over his vocal chords ensure a stunning show that brings his writing from ‘impressively creative’ to ‘technical marvel.’ Simply put: if you enjoy a good concert, you will enjoy Christian Bök.