Bök, Christian 1966-

views updated

BÖK, Christian 1966-

PERSONAL: Born Christian Book, 1966. Education: Carleton University, B.A., M.A.; York University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home—Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Office—University of Calgary, Department of English, 1152 Social Sciences, 2500 University Dr. NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Poet, writer, conceptual artist, and educator. York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, professor of English. Exhibitions: Conceptual artwork included in Poetry Plastique exhibit, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, NY.

AWARDS, HONORS: Griffin Prize for poetic excellence, 2002, for Eunoia; holds the world record for the fastest rendition of Kurt Schwitters's poem "Ursonate," performed on WFMU Radio, New York, NY.


Crystallography: Book One of Information Theory (poems), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994, revised edition published as Crystallography, 2003.

Eunoia (poems), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, Northwestern University Press (Evanston, IL), 2002.

(Editor) Ground Works: Avant-Garde for Thee (fiction collection), introduction by Margaret Atwood, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Creator of artificial languages for television programs, including Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley's Amazon.

SIDELIGHTS: Christian Bök is a multi-talented artist who works in several mediums, including poetry, both written and spoken. His first book of poetry, Crystallography: Book One of Information Theory, was revised as Crystallography when typographical problems in the first printing were corrected. The placement of words and symbols on the pages are as important as semantics and sound, and form crystals, as chemical formulae, that appear not only in the verses, but also in illustrations, charts, and graphs. There are several poems titled "Crystals," and the word appears in the graph titled "A graph charting the meteorological conditions necessary for the crystallization of poetic forms." Bök describes the volume as "a pataphysical encyclopedia that misreads the language of poetics through the conceits of geology."

Sima Rabinowitz commented positively on NewPages. com about the "relationship between the alphabet of linguistics and the alphabet of geology, the syntax of chemical relationships, and the topography of vowels and consonants. I love the crisp sheet of vinyl transparency at the book's center that overlays the diagram of the 'innate crystalline structure' of the letter Y."

According to Village Voice contributor Ed Park, "there is no book quite like Crystallography, and no writer quite like Bök." Remarking on individual poems, Park wrote that "the stunning 'Geodes' is a rock full of crystals, an ode to earth. . . . The eight-page 'Midwinter Glacaria,' with its sharply etched yet almost fungible winterscape, has more dazzle than most novels thirty times its length; the all-cap 'Diamonds' is a memoir-intimate affair. But the precision throughout is uncanny, the beauty almost inhuman."

Bök's Eunoia was seven years in the making and became a poetry best seller in Canada. The title is the shortest English word that contains all five vowels, and means "beautiful thinking." In the main part of Bök's volume, each of the five chapters employs only a single vowel, which explains why the book was so long in the writing. In addition, all of the paragraphs are exactly twelve lines long. An example from the "O"chapter reads, "Corps of shock-troops cordon off two blocks of shops to look for kooks who concoct knock-off bombs." James Crossley wrote in Review of Contemporary Fiction that "the quality of this work is so high that it's a shame to focus solely on its form; it deserves a perversely oblivious critic blind to its technical achievements." Ingrid Johnston noted in Resource Links that "it is hard not to be intrigued by Eunoia and impossible not to admire the skill, dexterity, and musical texture of this unique book."

Bök's Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science is a study of both Alfred Jarry, who first imagined the pseudoscience of pataphysics, and the nature of the concept itself and its place between poetry and science. Bök is also editor of Ground Works: Avant-Garde for Thee, a collection of Canadian experimental fiction written between 1965 and 1985, the introduction to which is provided by writer Margaret Atwood. Some of the entries come from larger works, and each is preceded by its own introduction. Bök writes in the afterword that the anthology "does not pretend to represent a particular aesthetic viewpoint, nor does it attempt to distinguish between practising modernists and their postmodern successors." Dirk Van Hulle noted in Review of Contemporary Fiction that "it does, however, give an excellent insight into an unfortunately short-lived period of innovative potential."



Bök, Christian, Crystallography: Book One of Information Theory (poems), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994, revised edition published as Crystallography, 2003.

Bök, Christian, Eunoia (poems), Coach House Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Bök, Christian, editor, Ground Works: Avant-Garde forThee (fiction collection), introduction by Margaret Atwood, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.


Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2001, review of Eunoia, p. 64.

Resource Links, October, 2002, Ingrid Johnston, review of Eunoia, p. 57.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2002, James Crossley, review of Eunoia, p. 149; spring, 2004, Dirk Van Hulle, review of Ground Works: Avant-Garde for Thee, p. 159.

Village Voice, December 17-23, 2003, Ed Park, reviews of Crystallography and Eunoia, section C, p. 88.


NewPages.com,http://www.newpages.com/ (July 7, 2004), Sima Rabinowitz, review of Crystallography.