Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Some issues also offer Featured Poets, a "The Critic Writes Poems" series, and/or Feature Articles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015



Eunoia by Christian Bök
(Coach House Books, 2001 / 2005)

You do not need a lot, to reach a lot

The world, the nature, love, family, friends and life; you can think beautiful about those words. You can think beautiful about almost everything that exists in the world or that you can imagine. It is up to you and up to the reader if s/he likes to see things positive and beautiful. Is it not beautiful to live on a planet that has  seven continents with over 200 countries, where it is possible to make new friends from all over the world and to have the opportunity to live the life you want to live? The Canadian author Christian Bök  published five years ago one of the most famous experimental books called Eunoia, which is the shortest word in English containing all five main vowel graphemes. It comes from the Greek and stands for "well mind" or "beautiful thinking". Actually the project behind Eunoia is simple. Each of the five main prose poems is restricted to one and only one of the five vowels of the English language. Chapter A for an example is describing a man called Hassan and his interests in culture and travelling; Bök is just using the vowel A in his words ("Hassan asks that a vassal grant a man what manna a man wants: …"). Chapter I is especially hard to read because I is the most important vowel because it is the first person and it might be confusing for the reader. Although it might be a little confusing, it is still possible to get the sense of that chapter. Chapter I deals with the protagonist I and it tells about the activities of I ("Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. ..."). This chapter starts as if it is metafictional watching at and judging itself from the beginning, downplayed this massive undertaking.

Those concepts of the parameters were made because of a group, called Oulipo, that is quite famous for using constrained techniques in poems or other literature. Members of Oulip are the French puzzler Georges Perec and Italo Calvino from Italy. Reading Euonia feels on the one hand that the poet could narrate these stories and poems forever, even with such rigid restraints. Besides that, it is very impressive for its innate sense of rhythm and genuine delight with playing with words.


Ole Kauert is a student at Indian Springs School and an exchange student from Germany.

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