EMU student Stephanie Walla reviews Christian Bök:
The Bathhouse Reading at Sponberg Theater on October 19th featured Christian Bök who opened with a stunning performance of one of Hugo Ball’s Dada sound poetry. Afterward he began reading sections from, Eunoia, a book he wrote where each chapter has the extreme constraint of using only one vowel. “Eunoia” itself is the shortest English word to use all five vowels and means “beautiful thinking.” Bök explained that after writing each chapter, he realized that each vowel seemed to take on its own personality, which was then conveyed in how he read excerpts from each chapter. When reading his favorite section from chapter I, his voice had a lyric quality to it while excerpts from chapter O were more lighthearted and jovial, and chapter U became primal and caveman-like.
He then continued reading, choosing selections from the second half of Eunoia titled “Oiseau”- which is the shortest word in French to use all five vowels. Bök read the poem, “And sometimes,” which contains words using only the letter “y.” The poem looks daunting to read, but when Bök read it the words became rhythmic with so many sounds that built off of each other, escalating to sound like a whole new language. He then read Arthur Rimbaud’s poem “Voyelles,” although not the best French reading, it inspired a sequence of poems that continued to play with vowels, their positions, and sounds.
Moving on to some of his poetry, Bök read a poem titled, “Dooms Day Song.” Inspired by the death of Superman, the poem sounded a lot like an action fight sequence but it retained a certain rhythmic quality to it that made it sound like a song. His other sound poetry included a piece read in an alien language he created for a science fiction show, which sounded like a hymn.
He then explained his latest project, the xenotext experiment, where he plans on implanting a poem into an organism that will interpret it as instructions and produce a protein that will be a response poem. The particular organism he wants to use will be able to survive even the sun exploding, essentially creating a book that will last forever. He concluded the performance reading a section of “Ursonate”- a sound poem that is one of the hardest in the world to read.
Bök’s reading was inspirational and wildly entertaining. He makes his work come alive through facial expressions and tone that can’t be perceived on paper. He is inspirational and innovative, encouraging everyone to push the boundaries and change the face of writing forever.