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?