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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, 160 pages, October 2015
Paperback : 9781552453216, 160 pages, October 2015
Read Excerpt (PDF)

The first work of 'living poetry' in the world, by the author of the bestselling book Eunoia

Shortlisted for the 2016 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry (Alberta Literary Awards)

Internationally renowned poet Christian Bok has encoded a poem (called ‘Orpheus’) into the genome of a germ so that, in reply, the cell builds a protein that encodesyet another poem (called ‘Eurydice’). After having illustrated this idea in E. coli, Bok is planning to insert his poem into a deathless bacterium (D. radiodurans), thereby writing a text able to outlive every apocalypse, enduring till the Sun itself expires.

Book 1 of The Xenotext is an ‘infernal grimoire’ that introduces readers to the conceptual groundwork for this project. The book offers a primer in genetics, even as it revisits the pastoral heritage of poetry, updating the orphic idylls of Virgil for a new age of mythic danger – be it in the beauty of artful biogenesis, if not in the terror of global extinction.

‘The cellular “rules* that govern this extraordinary text allow Bok to create one of the most beautiful poems of our time – a poem in which the georgics of Virgil join forces with the double helix of Watson and Crick.’ – Marjorie Perloff

‘If Human reverence was slanted more toward Nature and less toward the exaltation of gods, our scriptures might have looked something like The Xenotext.’ – Peter Watts

‘Many artists seek to attain immortality through their art, but few would expect their work to outlast the human race and live on for billions of years. As Canadian poet Christian Bok has realized, it all comes down to the durability of your materials.’ – The Guardian


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


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

National Post

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.'

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.'