Can a poem live inside a bacterium?

How do you write a poem that lasts forever? A new artistic exercise called “The Xenotext” uses a ‘chemical alphabet’ to translate verse into a sequence of DNA. The resulting ‘poem’ will then be implanted into the genome of a bacterium capable of surviving, without mutation, in the most hostile environments including the vacuum of outer space. UVic Libraries is bringing poet and University of Calgary professor Christian Bök—the researcher behind this groundbreaking project—to Victoria for two free public events to explain how he is striving to engineer a life-form so that it becomes not only a durable archive for preserving a poem, but also as a useable machine for writing a poem that might conceivably survive forever.

Bök is widely considered one of Canada's foremost experts on contemporary experimental poetics and literary theory. His book Eunoia, a lipogram that uses only one vowel in each of its five chapters, was awarded the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002.

What: “The Xenotext – The Making of an Unkillable Poet”

When: Thursday, March 10 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Where: Room A003, Mearns Centre – McPherson Library, UVic

Public Reading: Wednesday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Legacy Gallery, 630 Yates Street, Victoria

This event is part of a SSHRC-supported speaker series Unravelling the Code(x): History of the Book, an interdisciplinary series that explores book history scholarship and the creation, circulation and reception of knowledge.