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Contemporary Poetics Research Centre

Christian Bök - 'The Xenotext: A Progress Report' (Thursday 5 May 2011)

Thursday 5 May 2011

Birkbeck Centre for Poetics welcomes Christian Bök

6-6.50pm, Birkbeck, Room LG04, Bedford Way, UCL Building

'The Xenotext: A Progress Report'

"The Xenotext is my nine-year long attempt to create an example of “living poetry.” I have been striving to write a short verse about language and genetics, whereupon I use a “chemical alphabet” to translate this poem into a sequence of DNA for subsequent implantation into the genome of a bacterium (in this case, a microbe called Deinococcus radiodurans—an extremophile, capable of surviving, without mutation, in even the most hostile milieus, including the vacuum of outer space).
When translated into a gene and then integrated into the cell, my poem is going to constitute a set of instructions, all of which cause the organism to manufacture a viable, benign protein in response—a protein that, according to my original, chemical alphabet, is itself yet another text. I am, in effect, engineering a life-form so that it becomes not only a durable archive for storing a poem, but also an operant machine for writing a poem—one that can persist on the planet until the sun itself explodes…. come and hear how the Xenotext project is working!"

a public talk, all welcome