Event Recap: Christian Bök launches The Xenotext: Book 1 with special guest Jeramy Dodds

On Wednesday, October 7th, we were pleased to host the Montreal launch of Christian Bök's The Xenotext: Book 1. Jeramy Dodds was the evening's special guest.

Dodds started us off with a poem about a love affair with a glitter-eating dolphin. He then read to us from Long Winter Farm. He concluded with a tribute to a friend who recently passed, reflecting on the impossibility of living in the mind of someone dead. His recent translation of The Poetic Edda is now available from Coach House Books.

Christian Bök can be counted on to give a poetic performance, rather than a mere reading. He had us all rapt with his sonorous tones. He treated us to excerpts from the opening salvo, the body, and the epilogue of The Xenotext: Book 1. This poetry project is the first work of "living poetry" in the world and got Bök an interview in Nature—the only time a poet has ever been featured in that respected scientific publication. The living poetry was made thus: Bök wrote a poem, "Orpheus", that he then encoded into the genome of a germ, so that, in reply, the cell builds a protein that encodes yet another poem, "Eurydice", in response. This work has at its centre the first love poem he has ever written for another person, which also responds to Virgil's Georgics.

Bök's next plan is to insert the initial poem into deinococcus radiodurans–a bacterium that resists mutation, doesn’t evolve, and is so well adapted to the universe that it can survive anywhere, including outer space. “Instead of creating the first unkillable poet, I have created the first unkillable critic!" he tells us. Once encoded into the deathless bacterium, the poetic text will be able to outlast the apocalypse.

You can read more about how his project works here at The Triple Helix. There is also a "cheat sheet" of sorts in the back of The Xenotext: Book 1, which is available at the Librairie! Signed, too!

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