Or: Who cares if you can’t make sense of it?
At the turn of this century a so-called “experimental poet,” Christian Bök, published a book of poetry in five chapters, which were not numbered but lettered, i. e., chapters A, B, C, D, E. Why, you ask? To indicate to the reader the sole vowel to be used in the poem of that chapter. Bök titled his book “Euonia,” which happens to be the shortest word in English containing all five vowels. Its meaning, ironically, is “beautiful thinking.”
Herewith, a sample of Bök’s beautiful thinking, from Chapter U.
Kultur spurns Ubu – thus Ubu pulls stunts. Ubu shuns Skulptur: Uruk urns (plus busts), Zulu jugs (plus
tusks). Ubu sculpts junk für Kunst und Glück. Ubu busks. Ubu drums drums, plus Ubu strums cruths (such hubbub, such ruckus): thump, thump; thrum, thrum. Ubu puns puns. Ubu blurts untruth: much bunkum (plus bull), much humbug (plus bunk) – but trustful schmucks trust such untruthful stuff; thus Ubu (cult guru) must bluff dumbstruck numbskulls
(such chumps). Ubu mulcts surplus funds (trust funds plus slush funds). Ubu usurps much usufruct. Ubu sums up lump sums. Ubu trumps dumb luck.
Moves one to the quick, doesn’t it?
Recently I received via a friend a story from Headline USA which brought to mind the poetry of Christian Bök. The story concerns (deep breath now) the first openly transgender bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who is hopping mad over being fired from his position.
What brought to mind poet Bök and his singular use, in both senses of the word, of vowels was the Headline USA editor who, forced by company policy when reporting on trans matters to eschew the use of all personal pronouns, “translated,” as it were, the original wire-service story from conventional English into a tour de force of unintended comedy.
In his lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Rohrer accuses the denomination of discriminating against Rohrer for being transgender and deliberately misgendering Rohrer and creating a “hostile work environment.”
Rohrer, who now works as a senior communications specialist with a black nondenominational church in San Francisco, said Thursday that Rohrer always felt the support of Lutherans in the pews, but not from the higher echelons of the national church. On Rohrer’s first day as bishop, during a video call, Rohrer said Rohrer was misgendered and ridiculed for featuring drag queens at Rohrer’s ordination.
Rohrer alleges in the lawsuit that Rohrer was scapegoated and “publicly shamed as a racist.”
What your Tatler would really like to see is a grafting of the two linguistic techniques above, with the story of the unfortunate trans bishop rewritten not only without the use of personal pronouns but employing only one vowel as well: a splendid hybridization that could well lead to a new 21st-Century literary genre!
With thanks to William Tighe.