The inimitable Christian Bok at the Delta Mouth Lit Fest
Poet and theorist Craig Dworkin, who edits the fantastic Eclipse website, randomly showed up as a professor at my college during my senior year and taught a class of baffling writing that I barely understood (or didn’t understand!) and that I’ve never quite recovered from, in the best way possible. We discussed pataphysics, read Lyn Hejinian, Claudia Rankine, Harryette Mullen, and Kenneth Goldsmith, among others, but above and beyond all else, what stuck with me from that class what Christian Bok’s unbelievable, uber-formalist, Ouilipo-aficionadic book Eunoia, which is split into five chapters, each named after a vowel (Chapter A, Chapter E, Chapter I, etc.). Each chapter only contains the vowel after which it’s named. Bok imposed further rules—that each chapter must describe a feast, a nautical voyage, a sexual encounter; each must use nearly every word in the dictionary that only contains the corresponding vowel, and other craziness. The really incredible thing is that, after all the rules—which, if imposed on anyone not a genius, would result in sentences like “A cat sat badly at that mall”—it’s funny, touching, and just plain beautiful. Don’t believe me? You can read Chapter E (for René Crevel) at UbuWeb. In the video above, Bok reads five paragraphs from the book, one from each chapter.
What does this have to do with New Orleans book and literary news, you might ask? Well, nothing really, but it has everything to do with Baton Rouge book and literary news! And, given how nearby Baton Rouge is and how little exciting book and literary news emanates from there, I figured this was worth a mention.
Next weekend, March 15 – 17, students in the MFA program at Louisiana State University are hosting the fourth-annual Delta Mouth Literary Festival (the only free literary festival in Louisiana, they note, presumably taking a jab at the Tennessee Williams Fest). Christian Bok will appear on Thursday night, so of course you’ll miss him if you live in New Orleans because you’ll be attending the reading at Antenna Gallery with Michael Lee and Dean Paschal, but if you find yourself in the capital next weekend (any state senators reading Room 220?), the event is not to be missed. Other good readers include Lily Hoang and Paul Killebrew, who will be writing a travelogue of his journey to and experience in the festival for Room 220. There are also some other people who I’ve never heard of who might be good. If nothing else, judging by the author photos, Delta Mouth has managed to at least attract willing female and non-white poets and authors to read, which is something Room 220‘s Live Prose series has thus far failed at miserably. (Sigh.)