The Xenotext: Book 1

Christian Bok. Coach House (Consortium, U.S. dist.; Publishers Group Canada, Canadian dist.), $18.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-55245-321-6
This book from experimental poet Bök (whose collection Eunoia won the 2001 Griffin Poetry Prize) is a poetic diagram to be decoded and deciphered. Bök explores genetic encoding, immortality through text, conservation of meaning, and creation and destruction with virtuoso wordplay and composition that include acrostics, sonnets, catalogues, pastorals, and incantatory repetition, among other forms. Much of the text is translation—between genetic markers, from classical text to English, and through encapsulation of and commentary on both found and original poetry. Bök also provides detailed discussion of each section's form and aims in the "Vita Explicata" section, which is useful given that the purposes of individual sections can be obscure until they're given context. The whole of the collection is an intriguing and adroit display of poetic and literary capability, and it ties to a larger project that's even more ambitious: Bök's ongoing attempt to encode into an extremophile bacterium—Deinococcus radiodurans—a poem in DNA form designed to perpetuate and answer/continue itself in replication. The success of that project has yet to be determined, but the collection at least already succeeds in its aims, and is highly recommended. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 10/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-77056-434-3
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