I had the pleasure of hearing, live and in person, the work of Christian Bök last week. He was in the country for work down in Wollongong but was able to visit Sydney for a gig at UTS, for Martin Harrison's poetry class and for a few interlopers such as myself and other Sydney poets. Christian is supposed to be able to do the fastest rendition of Schwitters' "Ursonate". I'm sure that's correct and we got a taste of that work, plus readings from parts of Eunoia, including Vowels, which was cool. One of my other favourites was 'Valuveula', which he called an 'alien hymn', originally written for one of those Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi television shows. The language has no nouns or verbs, so there's a lot of 'as iffing' needing to be 'translated'. I also admired a beatboxish poem (well, that's what it sounded like to me) which used no mikes, no tapes, no technology, just the body, the voice, and all its textures. And very funny was "Ubu Hubbub" which Christian says is one of his few 'political' works based on what he imagined Ubu Roi might sound like when he hit the hustings.
Phew, I was amazed, let me say. Talk about your materiality of language, talk about working, talk about high energy and enthusiasm, talk about the breath. And afterwards, chatting with another poet, I and she thought we had to go home and practice making all our own fabulous sounds. But I know my body's too far gone for that these days. My throat and sinuses just wouldn't perform and as for my lungs ... oh dear.
Christian is a great guy, too. A bunch of us got together with him a coupla times, for a bevvie and a meal, including dinner at the Emperor's Garden in Chinatown. (This venue must be heading into legendary territory. Many, many poets' dinners have been had here. We've all discussed a plaque at the EG. One day, maybe.)