Over on the Poetry Foundation’s blog, a fellow named Christian Bök—who bills himself as “an experimental writer,” although he also constructs “conceptual artworks” out of Rubik’s cubes and Legos— has posted the sixth (!) in a series of musings about so-called poetic machines, which he rhapsodizes about in terms that would make dear old Kurt Vonnegut spin in his grave. Here’s my comment on his latest….
I’ve been alternately annoyed and amused by Bök’s past postings, but now I see that I’m meant to be only amused. It—his blog, I mean—is all Swiftian satire!
What a relief to discover this. Now I don’t have to get exercised over his fuzzy language. In the past, his bizarre statement that we readers today judge poems on the “stateliness” of their expression, while future readers might judge them on “uncanniness of … production,” might have driven me to distraction. But knowing it’s all a joke keeps my blood pressure under control. And when he impishly shifts this past/future construct into the present—”no longer can the reader ask,” etc.—I no longer need to grind my teeth at his irrational rhetoric: I can simply muster a wry smile.
The best aspect of my discovery is that I’m prepared for his next foray into pseudo-intellectual humor. If, as seems likely, he next imagines the inventor of a machine that eats Irish children and claims that this—somehow—is the next step in poetic evolution, I won’t be repulsed or angered: I’ll grant him the wink and the nod he seems to be looking for.
Thanks for all the fish, Christian!
One thing that troubles me about Mr. Bök is that he is granted space on the Poetry Foundation’s site. Is he supposed to be a foil for the other bloggers (currently Stephen Burt, Rigoberto González, Major Jackson, Ange Mlinko, and A. E. Stallings—estimable writers all)? Or is he there to embarrass the “avant-garde,” however we might define that nebulous and by now possibly irrelevant term?
But what troubles me most is that this guy is a Professor of English at the University of Calgary. Which means he has students, some of whom might take him seriously, when clearly he is some species of walking satire. Let’s hope he’s listed as such in the Course Catalog!