Everyone’s a poet, including this microbe

Christian Bök is part poet, part mad scientist. He’s read the entirety of Webster’s Dictionary three times, invented a language for a sci-fi TV show, and, most recently, brushed up on his genetic engineering skills to create the world’s first “living poem.”

According to Macleans, the project, called Xenotext, is a “short stanza enciphered into a string of DNA and injected into an ‘unkillable’ bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism.”

So what’s wrong with writing poetry in your Moleskine, or on a coffee-stained paper napkin at a local open mic? Nothing, I guess. But it’s clearly not enough for Bök, and his imagination — “the biggest in the room” as he calls it — is inspired by less traditional sources (more Watson & Crick than a red wheelbarrow). “I am amazed that poets will continue to write about their divorces, even though there is currently a robot taking pictures of orange ethane lakes on Titan.”

***
 — Benjamin Samuel is co-editor of Electric Literature. He looks forward to the day when natural selection will be our first line of defense for bad poetry. You can find him here.

More Like This

Display Me in the Museum’s Secret Room

Two poems by Katherine Indermaur

Oct 3 - Katherine Indermaur

Horror Gave Me Power to Embrace Queerness in Rural Appalachia

"The Wolf Man" helped me process the things that still remain unspoken and unacknowledged with my father

Oct 3 - Tosha R. Taylor

Job Counseling Sessions Gave Me Space to Tell My Story

Angie Cruz explores the impact of the Great Recession on a 56-year-old Dominican woman in "How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water"

Sep 30 - Donna Hemans
Thank You!