Christian is one of the world's most well-known conceptual poets. Crystallography brought a scientific rigour and sensibility to poetry, while Eunoia was an Oulipian exercise in severe constraint and a radical experiment in language. Eunoia won the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize and has sold 35,000 copies in North America.
The Xenotext is a kind of experiment – a literary exercise that explores the aesthetic potential of genetics in the modern milieu. Christian Bök is in the process of composing a beautiful, anomalous poem, whose “alien words” might subsist, like a harmless parasite, inside the cell of another life-form.
This is the first volume, of two, about The Xenotext. It will include Christian’s writings about and around the experiment; there is a long poem about the hellish origins of life on Earth, a series of writings and texts that will introduce the reader to the basics of genetics, amino acids and helices, complete with numerous illustrations. It sets the groundwork for the second volume, which will document the experiment itself.
The experiment has been going on for more than ten years, and has already received media attention from BBC, Harper's, The Guardian, Maclean's, as well as from the scientific and literary communities.