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The Xenotext: Book 1

The Xenotext: Book 1

By Christian Bök
Categories: Poetry
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781770564343, 250 pages, October 2015
Ebook (PDF) : 9781770564350, 250 pages, October 2015
Paperback : 9781552453216, 160 pages, October 2015
Read Excerpt (PDF)

Internationally best-sellling poet Christian Bök has spent more than ten years writing what promises to be the first example of 'living poetry.' After successfully demonstrating his concept in a colony of E. coli, Bök is on the verge of enciphering a beautiful, anomalous poem into the genome of an unkillable bacterium (Deinococcus radiodurans), which can, in turn, "read" his text, responding to it by manufacturing a viable, benign protein, whose sequence of amino acids enciphers yet another poem. The engineered organism might conceivably serve as a post-apocalyptic archive, capable of outlasting our civilization.

Book I of The Xenotext constitutes a kind of 'demonic grimoire,' providing a scientific framework for the project with a series of poems, texts, and illustrations. A Virgilian welcome to the Inferno, Book I is the "orphic" volume in a diptych, addressing the pastoral heritage of poets, who have sought to supplant nature in both beauty and terror. The book sets the conceptual groundwork for the second volume, which will document the experiment itself. The Xenotext is experimental poetry in the truest sense of the term. 


  • Short-listed, Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry (Alberta Literary Awards) 2016


In a recent review of Christian Bök's new book, The Xenotext: Book 1, The Found Poetry Review's Douglas Luman gushes:

'With a writer like B̦k (and it is fair to say that there are not many Рif any Рtruly like him), the expectation is that whatever comes of the massive amounts of research and investigation will be delightfully confusing, simultaneously illustrative, and altogether new. '

And Luman is not left disappointed; he writes: 'Bök provides a new way into creation, by entering into the very language and vocabulary of the canvas of life itself. '

Writing about The Xenotext: Book 1, Rob McClennan writes: 'It becomes fascinating how [Christian] Bök has managed to construct poetry, let alone a multiple-volume project, around such an experiment, extending, exploring and capturing the connections between science and poetry dozens of times beyond what anyone has achieved up to this point, proving yet again just how far ahead he is of his peers. '

‘Christian Bok’s The Xenotext, a poem in DNA mutation, continues his attempts to redefine what poetry even is. ’

National Post