Sunday, November 17, 2013

ModPo 2013 #66 Vowel Bells Ringing: On Bok's "Eunoia"

Meditation Bells

The text of Christian Bok's work, "Eunoia" is here.

A memorable line for me: "He engenders perfect newness whenever we need fresh terms." (From Chapter E)

This was a perfectly wrought piece. Here, we cannot argue that the writer did not put enough effort into his work. While the methodology was quite simple and clear (use only words with one kind of vowel per chapter, write sentences that make perfect sense describing: 1) a voyage, 2) a banquet, 3) an orgy, 4) the art of writing, with 98% of all the words available to be used), it is indeed a feat to have achieved it. No wonder it took him seven years to do it.

I liked one of the conclusions in the video discussion: "Even under duress, language can still express an uncanny, if not sublime, thought." This output is like the opposite of Kenneth Goldsmith's project which exposes regular speech (still language) as 98% garbage. With effort, even if pushed to the brink, language can still express, can still narrate, elegantly.

Bok's work calls attention to sheer number of words with only one vowel and how they can all still make sense not just in sentences and paragraphs but as a whole narrative. Vowels make the world go round! When I was listening to the words, I started hearing each vowel as a kind of meditation bell. This is the world of "a." This is the world of "e." And so on. Breaking down language to the vowel is possible. And not only that, it is resonant.

Lastly, I love the title of the whole piece of work, "Eunoia." No other word is so appropriate. And I've found a new favorite word! I mentioned in one of my ModPo essays that I love the word "numinous." And now, eunoia. Beautiful thinking. And the only English word which uses all of the five main vowel graphemes. So many bells ringing in one word.

If the Language poets shifted our attention to sound...then Bok, a conceptual poet, also achieves this with his hefty project...but in a very different way.

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