Thursday, July 01, 2010

How to Fall In Love with a Vowel

The Canadian poet Christian Bök  (b. 1966) is the author of a singular book of poetry – Eunoia, a book  that was awarded the Griffin poetry prize in 2002.

The word eunoia, of Greek origin,  is the shortest word in English that includes all vowels and its meaning, as defined by Christian Bök is “beautiful thinking”.

The book Eunoia is divided into two parts.
The first part of the book, also called "Eunoia", is made up of five chapters, each one dedicated to a vowel: Chapter A, Chapter E, Chapter I, Chapter O, Chapter U.

Each of these chapters encapsulates poems  in prose, in a play of words made up with only one vocal,  excluding all other consonants, and the letter Y.

Eunoia opens with a dedication to the reader:

for the new
ennui in you

which harkens back, in subtle bilingual alliterations,  to themes from Baudelaire’s poetry.

The second part of the book, “Oiseau” takes its title from the shortest French word that contains all vowels.
In this section, I found a brilliant translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Voyelles (Vowels) that belongs to the author.

The poetry in Eunoia hovers over a terrain of linguistic experiments and its poetics, openly displayed, but hard to imitate, resides in the  juggling of constraints in a jig-saw puzzle of improvised meaning  in its lipograms.

Here is a fragment from Chapter I:

“Minds grim with nihilism still find first light inspir-
ing. Mild pink in tint, its shining twilight brings bright
tidings which lift sinking spirits. With firm will, I finish
climbing, hiking till I find this inviting inn, in which
I might sit, dining. I thirst. I bid girls bring stiff drinks…”

The closing of section of the book sheds some light on the techniques used in architecture of  the book - some  “subsidiary rules”.
Here is a quote from these last pages:
“ All chapters must describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableau and a nautical voyage.”

And if someone were to ask me, at the end of this post -  with which of the vowels I  have fallen in love – it would be difficult to find an answer.
If however, I would be pressed for the answer – which fortunately enough no one is asking for – I would think that this vowel would be the vowel "o".

Another question would be: what vowel did you, the reader of this post, fall in love with recently – when and why?


Anonymous Someone said...

I think my favourite would be 'U', it encapsulates a whole word 'You' and the plethora of meanings that 'You' has to offer.

Blasphemous Aesthete

Wine and Words said...

Would be a great name for this blog...Eunoia

You've got me intrigued now. I'll check it out :)

Irina said...

Thank you...Anonymous's quite interesting - I got the same answer: "U" from a similar post in my blog in Romanian.

I appears that so far we have two votes for "U".

Irina said...

Thank you John...there are quite a few quotes from the book on the Griffin poetry prize page:

Niamh B said...

I read eunoia on honeymoon because we were volunteering at a festival and knew we'd be getting to see Christian. It was an interesting experience. He's an impressive sound poet - as in really can talk and shout like an alien (youtube him), and I do love his overall creativity and eccentricity, however - I did find it a bit devoid of real emotion. The music of it all was brilliant. My favourite vowel I think is "U" for the character Ubu, and all his crazy capers (Don't know why I think it's a he)

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