Christian Bök


Griffin Poetry Prize 2002
Canadian Winner

Book: Eunoia

Poet: Christian Bök

Publisher: Coach House Books

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.



Christian Bök’s Eunoia has had twelve reprints and sold 11,000 copies since its publication in 2001, a phenomenal success story by Canadian standards. He is the author of the acclaimed Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for Best Poetic Debut. Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. Bök’s conceptual artwork has appeared at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York City as part of the Poetry Plastique exhibit. He has also created artificial languages for the TV shows, Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon. Bök has also earned many accolades for his virtuoso performances of sound poetry (particularly the Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters).

Judges’ Citation

“Christian Bök has made an immensely attractive work from those ‘corridors of the breath’ we call vowels, giving each in turn its dignity and manifest, making all move to the order of his own recognition and narrative. Both he and they are led to delightfully, unexpected conclusions as though the world really were what we made of it. As we are told at the outset, ‘Eunoia, which means ‘beautiful thinking,’ is the shortest English word to contain all five vowels.’ Here each speaks with persistent, unequivocal voice, all puns indeed intended.”

Christian Bök reads CHAPTER I, for Dick Higgins

CHAPTER I, for Dick Higgins, by Christian Bök

CHAPTER I, for Dick Higgins

Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks — impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn’t it glib? Isn’t it chic? I fit childish insights within rigid limits, writing schtick which might instill priggish misgivings in critics blind with hindsight. I dismiss nitpicking criticism which flirts with philistinism. I bitch; I kibitz – griping whilst criticizing dimwits, sniping whilst indicting nitwits, dismissing simplistic thinking, in which philippic wit is still illicit.

Pilgrims, digging in shifts, dig till midnight in mining pits, chipping flint with picks, drilling schist with drills, striking it rich mining zinc. Irish firms, hiring micks whilst firing Brits, bring in smiths with mining skills: kilnwrights grilling brick in brickkilns, millwrights grinding grist in gristmills. Irish tinsmiths, fiddling with widgits, fix this rig, driving its drills which spin whirring drillbits. I pitch in, fixing things. I rig this winch with its wiring; I fit this drill with its piping. I dig this ditch, filling bins with dirt, piling it high, sifting it, till I find bright prisms twinkling with glitz.

Hiking in British districts, I picnic in virgin firths, grinning in mirth with misfit whims, smiling if I find birch twigs, smirking if I find mint sprigs. Midspring brings with it singing birds, six kinds (finch, siskin, ibis, tit, pipit, swift), whistling shrill chirps, trilling chirr chirr in high pitch. Kingbirds flit in gliding flight, skimming limpid springs, dipping wingtips in rills which brim with living things: krill, shrimp, brill fish with gilt fins, which swim in flitting zigs. Might Virgil find bliss implicit in this primitivism? Might I mimic him in print if I find his writings inspiring?

Fishing till twilight, I sit, drifting in this birch skiff, jigging kingfish with jigs, brining in fish which nip this bright string (its vivid glint bristling with stickpins). Whilst I slit this fish in its gills, knifing it, slicing it, killing it with skill, shipwrights might trim this jib, swinging it right, hitching it tight, riding brisk winds which pitch this skiff, tipping it, tilting it, till this ship in crisis flips. Rigging rips. Christ, this ship is sinking. Diving in, I swim, fighting this frigid swirl, kicking, kicking, swimming in it till I sight high cliffs, rising, indistinct in thick mists, lit with lightning.

Lightning blinks, striking things in its midst with blinding light. Whirlwinds whirl; driftwinds drift. Spindrift is spinning in thrilling whirligigs. Which blind spirit is whining in this whistling din? Is it this grim lich, which is writhing in its pit, lifting its lid with whitish limbs, rising, vivific, with ill will in its mind, victimizing kids timid with fright? If it is – which blind witch is midwifing its misbirth, binding this hissing djinni with with witching spiritism? Is it this thin, sickish girl, twitching in fits, whilst writing things in spirit-writing? If it isn’t – it is I; it is I ?

Lightning flicks its riding whip, blitzing this night with bright schisms. Sick with phthisis in this drizzling mist, I limp, sniffling, spitting bilic spit, itching livid skin (skin which is tingling with stinging pinpricks). I find this frigid drisk dispiriting; still, I fight its chilling windchill. I climb cliffs, flinching with skittish instincts. I might slip. I might twist this infirm wrist, crippling it, wincing whilst I bind it in its splint, cringing whilst I gird it in its sling; still, I risk climbing, sticking with it, striving till I find this rift, in which I might fit, hiding in it till winds diminish.

Minds grim with nihilism still find first light inspiring. Mild pink in tint, its shining twilight brings bright tidings which lift sinking spirits. With firm will, I finish climbing, hiking till I find this inviting inn, in which I might sit, dining. I thirst. I bid girls bring stiff drinks – gin fizz which I might sip whilst finishing this rich dish, nibbling its tidbits: ribs with wings in chili, figs with kiwis in icing. I swig citric drinks with vim, tipping kirsch, imbibing it till, giggling, I flirt with girlish virgins in miniskirts: wink, wink. I miss living in sin, pinching thighs, kissing lips pink with lipstick.

Slick pimps, bribing civic kingpins, distill gin in stills, spiking drinks with illicit pills which might bring bliss. Whiz kids in silk-knit shirts script films in which slim girls might strip, jiggling tits, wiggling hips, inciting wild shindigs. Twin siblings in bikinis might kiss rich bigwigs, giving this prim prig his wish, whipping him, tickling him, licking his limp dick till, rigid, his prick spills its jism. Shit! This ticklish victim is trifling with kink. Sick minds, thriving in kinship with pigs, might find insipid thrills in this filth. This flick irks critics. It is swinish; it is piggish. It stinks.

Thinking within strict limits is stifling. Whilst Viking knights fight griffins, I skirmish with this riddling sphinx (this sigil – I), I print lists, filing things (kin with kin, ilk with ilk), inscribing this distinct sign, listing things in which its imprint is intrinsic. I find its missing links, divining its implicit tricks. I find it whilst skindiving in Fiji; I find it whilst picnicking in Linz. I find it in Inniskillin; I find it in Mississippi. I find it whilst skiing in Minsk. (Is this intimism civilizing if Klimt limns it, if Liszt lilts it?) I sigh; I lisp. I finish writing this writ, signing it, kind sir: NIHIL, DICIT, FINI.

From Eunoia, by Christian Bök
Copyright © Christian Bök, 2001

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