On being stubborn

Close Listening with Christian Bök

Christian Bök at the North of Invention festival at Poets House, New York, January 2011. Photo copyright © Lawrence Schwartzwald.

Editorial note: Christian Bök is the author of ’Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science, Crystallography, and Eunoia (which won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002). Bök performs his poetry around the world and teaches at the University of Calgary. The following has been adapted from a Close Listening conversation recorded on April 20, 2005, at Studio 111 at the University of Pennsylvania. The audio program is available on PennSound, along with an associated reading by Bök. Charles Bernstein hosted and produced the show; it includes comments and questions from his undergrduate students as well as from several visitors, including Bob Perelman, Jena Osman, and Rachel Blau DuPlessis. The interview was transcribed by Michael Nardone. — Katie L. Price

Penn student: Do you think poetry is elitist? Is it accessible? 

Christian Bök: If you’re asking me if poetry is elitist because it’s the expression of our best sentiments, requiring skill and ingenuity to be good at it, then yes, it’s probably an elite activity. It’s only the chosen few who are willing to dedicate their lives to this activity.

Charles Bernstein: If it’s the chosen few, then how did you and I get involved in it?

Bök: Well, that’s what I mean: “I chose you.”

Very few people are actually willing to make the kind of commitment that’s often required to be immersed within this kind of literature, especially since there are very few material rewards for such dedication. In that sense, the kind of work that people practicing poetry might produce is the side effect of a certain elitism.

If you’re asking me if poetry is exclusionary, and therefore it prevents certain kinds of people from participating, then I don’t believe so. It’s an extremely democratized milieu, and anybody can find a way to enter it and enjoy it. I certainly think that poetry functions in such a way.

Student: What method, if any, did you use in writing Eunoia?

Bök: The word eunoia is spelled E-U-N-O-I-A. It’s the shortest word in English to contain all the vowels, and it means quite literally, “beautiful thinking.” It’s probably my favorite word in the language. When I first encountered this word, I thought that it would be a great title for a book.

In order to write Eunoia, I had to write five different stories: five narratives, each of which uses only one vowel. In the first chapter, only the letter A appears; in the second chapter, only the letter E appears, etc.

I did this work by first reading the Third Webster’s New International Dictionary, a three-volume dictionary. I read it five times. It has over one and a half million entries, so I had to look at about seven and a half million words in the course of accumulating the requisite vocabulary. I then sorted all the words into topical categories by hand. I didn’t use a computer to do the searching or the sorting, because I thought that it would take about as long to learn the software necessary to do such a task as it would take to actually do it by hand, and I wanted to get started. So I just simply threw myself into the task. I thought that getting the vocabulary was going to be the most arduous part of the work — sorting it into parts of speech, figuring out what the topical categories might be amongst those words, all in an effort to determine what could be said with them. Then I proceeded to arrange them, like a jigsaw puzzle, into something that would be intelligible and that would have a kind of artful, poetic value.

It turned out that the actual search for the words themselves was the easiest part of the work. The remaining seven years required to produce the book involved a tremendous amount of labor and a kind of stubborn commitment, all under very disappointing and desperate conditions.

If the book reveals anything about me personally, I think that it reveals something about my stubborn mindedness — or my obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Student: I was wondering what you experience when you feel as if you have succeeded in creating a poem like Eunoia. What effect does that have on you, when you feel as if you’ve said exactly what you wanted to say?

Bök: When I was working on the book, I noticed lots of spooky moments in my activity. There’s a great deal of paranoia in Eunoia. I began to think that the vowels were, in some way, conspiring amongst themselves to speak on their own behalf. Whenever there were these kind of synchronistic coincidences, where words would fall into place and suddenly say something that seemed very uncanny, if not sublime, then I knew that the work was going well. 

But such events occurred with sufficient infrequency that, most of the time, I was in a state of really black desperation. Nevertheless, these little moments of euphoria would occur. These little moments of spookiness would occur with just enough regularity that I would actually feel reinspired to continue the labor necessary to complete the work. When I was finished, I felt a kind of breathless elation at having completed such a lengthy project. Suddenly I realized that my faith in the actual language itself, its ability to work under these extremely adverse conditions, was well warranted. Language is extremely flexible and, in a certain sense, it can’t be censored. I felt a great deal of optimism about this fact when I finished the book.

Student: Can we look forward to a consonant sequel to Eunoia?

Bök: A consonant sequel? No, I’ve promised myself that I won’t ever write another constraint-based book again. The blood pact, which I have with my peer group, is that every book we write will be radically different from its predecessor — that the entire oeuvre will be completely heteroclite. The next project requires me learning a whole new skill set, retraining my brain to learn something else. I probably would not have the endurance now, or the perseverance required, to actually finish a constraint-based book.

Student: Clearly, Eunoia is very constraint-based, and from what you’re saying, you’re probably going to set yourself a new set of rules every time you write something new. So, are you arguing for something? For going back to the sort of poetic formality that has existed forever, against the tide of free verse or stream of consciousness?

Bök: I have no problem with such poetic forms. My only complaint about them is that they do not feel much incentive to innovate, to produce something new in order to reinvent themselves in a manner which is exciting and stimulating. To me, it’s not so important that poetic works actually demonstrate some sort of formalistic character, so long as they have some kind of innovative rationale for their practice. I’m not making a case for a return to a rigorous formality. I’m not that fascistic or schoolmarmish in my sensibilities. I did this project, thinking that it was a kind of experimental work. I didn’t know if it could be done, and I merely conducted the experiment to see what would happen. To me, that’s what writing poetry is about. It’s a kind of heuristic activity, where you indulge in a completely exploratory adventure through language itself.

Student: Speaking of innovative rationale, where did your constraints, your content constraints about the nautical voyage and so forth, come from?

Bök: In Eunoia, the five chapters have a thematic thread, which runs throughout the entire book. Every chapter must allude to the art of writing. All the chapters have to describe a culinary banquet, a prurient debauch, a pastoral tableaux, and a nautical voyage. These four scenarios are indicative of a vocabulary common to all the five vowels. It’s possible, for example, to say something erotic or culinary in theme throughout all the vowels, because they actually have this vocabulary in common. I wanted there to be a sort of thematic consistency across the entire book. I didn’t want it to be just five separate, individual stories that had no correlations with each other. I wanted there to be some sort of thematic parallelism — and it just so happened that these were the lexicons that were common to the five vowels. So, I included them in the story.

Coincidentally, those four scenarios are also the kinds of scenarios that you typically see in Greek epic poetry. For me, the word eunoia, which is originally from Greek, means quite literally goodwill — it was a term coined by Aristotle to describe the frame of mind that you have to be in, in order to make a friend. It reflects a kind of neoclassical set of values about beautiful thinking. Certainly, there is a kind of classical story in Eunoia. The retelling of the Iliad in chapter E, for example, alludes to these four scenarios, which are common to a classical form of storytelling. You would find these scenes in such an epic.

Student: So, did the classical idea come first? Did the research for what was common come first, or was it sort of an homage to the classical traditions?

Bök: It’s all a side effect of the actual vocabulary itself. I didn’t plan to write about these four scenarios. The vocabulary determined what it was possible for me to say, and I simply said it. It just so happens that they are easily integrated into this rationale, this explanation. It is just a coincidence that it has something to do with a kind of neoclassical, Apollonian rigor in aesthetic value, which I think the Greeks exemplify.

Student: Have you ever thought of joining an a capella group?

Bök: No, I don’t think that I would join an a capella group. I’m too much of an auteur.

I have no vocal training. I’m not a musician.

Bernstein: I always thought Eunoia was what people said about poetry like ours: “You annoy-a me.”

Bök: That was the standard joke that my friends used when the book was outwearing its welcome: people would describe it as “Annoy-you,” or, better yet, “Ennui.”

Student: Considering the notion that imposed constraint thematically describes other inherent constraints: the most foundational and, perhaps, important element that arises out of Eunoia, and the construct of it, seems to be that language, even as it exists within conditions of both internal and external being, still stands as enduring and amazingly resilient. In many ways you have exploited the language’s benefit, the very linguistics or languaged associations and fixings that so many currently decry as problematic, something requiring remedy. Do you find that, having laid forth this enduring quality, both powerfully and convincingly, you have also laid a foundation that acts as a sort of defense of discursiveness? Leaving the aims of, say, Language poetry as more of a linguistic preference than a linguistic necessity? In other words, have words been shown to be so very resilient that they, in fact, do not require any sort of cleansing or reforming? And, in this way, do you defend what is often viewed as conservative or contaminated poetics?

Bök: If you’re suggesting that I’ve demonstrated that it’s possible for a person to be an avant-garde poet and actually mean something, then right, I agree. When indulging in this kind of formalism, I could say yes — what seems true about any combination of words, according to any series of formal rationales, is that what we call meaning is really a side effect of a particular kind of activity. No matter what combination of words that I might use, no matter how they are arranged or disposed, no matter what kind of formalities are brought to bear upon them, you’re going to find some sort of way to make those associations mean something to you. It seems to me that meaning is always the side effect of such an activity.

T. S. Eliot used to say that meaning was the meat that the burglar threw to the dog. You had to put some meaning in the poem so that something else could take place. You had to satisfy those readers who were begging for some sort of rationale, some sort of purpose for this activity, which, in many respects, is done for its own sake — as a kind of hedonistic enjoyment of language, language free from the need to mean. It takes a little holiday. That’s what’s going on in Eunoia: language has taken a little holiday from the dictionary. I’ve merely shown some sort of incipient, possible combinations and permutations of the words, all of which are actually imminent within the dictionary, within the language itself, but which have been somewhat occluded or eclipsed by other activities in language. That’s what many poets are trying to do nowadays. Certainly, the Language poets do that as well. They’re attempting to show various aspects of ideology in meaningful production, aspects occluded by standard, normative uses of the language.

Student: Do you find reinvention to be a means to some end or an end in and of itself?

Bök: That would be like asking a scientist if their practice of science is supposed to be pure or applied. I think that we’ve got lots of applied language: certainly, instruction books and information manuals. Those are kinds of applied modes of linguistic usage. I think that a poet is much like a pure scientist doing a kind of experimental, research activity. It’s all research and development. I would like to be a mad scientist in my basement designing a new brand of nerve gas that I could just spring on the population. And I am doing it through this kind of viral thing called language. That’s how I would respond to the idea about innovation. It’s a kind of research activity that you do in order to produce knowledge, quite literally — something that is a surprise, something that you’ve never knew before seen.

Student: How do you see that playing into the bigger social discourse?

Bök: I hope that it brings readers who might not have otherwise enjoyed poetry, or that it might produce new poets who would be encouraged to conduct, if not extend, these kinds of research activities. I certainly hope that it has an impact upon people’s attitudes towards their own use of language: that it helps them modify their own everyday, quotidian uses of it.

Student: Is novelty worthwhile for its own sake? Do you find you have a relationship with novelty through your own work?

Bök: My joke has always been: “New and improved — twice as many adjectives!”

It’s an attitude towards novelty that’s kind of an upgrade to ideology. You get the old thing, but now it’s 2.0. Or the old thing, but 3.0. These constitute modes of updating your, otherwise outdated, activity.

But in a certain sense, the new is not a fashion. It’s not a fad; it’s actually a value. Barthes would argue that it’s a fundamental value to most artistic practice in the last one hundred years, and that it’s actually impossible to produce knowledge unless you are invested in the new. You have to be able to produce surprises: produce a minimal difference that, in fact, makes a difference. That’s what I mean by the new: it’s a difference that makes a difference.

Bernstein: Better new-oia than old-oia.

Bök: That’s right.

Student: My question is what inherent value, if any, does Eunoia hold for a non-English speaker?

Bök: That’s interesting. I’ve had nonnative speakers of English comment that, when reading this book, they try to imagine what it would be like to conduct the same experiment in their own language. Many of them say that it would be effectively impossible to produce the same kind of work with the same depth, or complexity, across all five vowels. Spanish speakers said that, if they were to write the O section, it would be somewhat boring, because it would be composed of nothing but spondees with a long O sound: “poco, loco,” that kind of word, over and over again.

English has a relatively robust vocabulary and a very large lexicon. As a consequence, it made the act of writing the book in English much easier than doing it in other languages. In Quebec, some French writers have attempted to translate elements from chapter E with the same constraint and the same semantic content, and they’ve successfully managed to translate a few paragraphs after much arduous work. I would be very curious to see if somebody could actually do an analogous version of this book in some other language. It would be interesting to compare the two exercises. Most poets have simply confessed that they think that it would be impossible, but that’s what they said about conducting the experiment in English. Most writers who theorized this kind of practice thought that it couldn’t be done, certainly not at this length, and certainly not across all five vowels. But nobody really ever put it to the test. That’s the important thing for me: that I’ve attempted to put it to the test, despite being told not to.

Student: If you were born in Mexico, do you think you would still pursue a career as a poet?

Bök: If I was born in Mexico? I don’t know. Probably. I imagine.

Bernstein: I’m midway through my translation of the Canadian into the US language. It’s been arduous.

Bök: We speak American up there, you know?

Bernstein: I do ten minutes after I wake up each morning. It’s very similar, almost identical in terms of the letters and the configuration of the letters, to the Canadian.

Bök: We’re missing the letter zee though.

Bernstein: But I keep the letter zee. I try and stay as close to the Canadian as possible.

Bök: We’ve got the zed instead.

Bernstein: Many people would see very little difference, except that I’ve translated it, and I spent all this time.

Student: Do you think technology such as sorting programs or more advanced pattern-based algorithms could assist in the production of constraint-based writing such as Eunoia? And, at the extreme, could that supplant the poet?

Bök: This is a question of concern, and interest, for my peer group. I almost wish that I had access to the technology that would have made it possible to automate most of this process. I think that, if not now, then certainly in the future, poets may be required to learn a catechism outside of their formal, literary training. They may have to learn how to be typographers and typesetters and computer programmers, learning how to program Perl scripts in order to actually mine the vast exobytes of information that are out there on the Web.

In the future we could easily imagine poets being celebrated not so much for the quality of the poems that they write so much as for the quality of the programs that write poems on their behalf. We’ll celebrate poets as writers of code, not just as writers of words.

I haven’t got a problem with that. I actually think that computers are very useful prostheses, and I am very interested in the kinds of literary work produced by machines. I’ve written at length about the only published computer which has produced a book of poetry: Racter, the author of The Policeman’s Beard Is Half Constructed, a very marvellous book of surrealism. What’s interesting about such a poet, for me, is not so much that it might someday supplant me and my job, but that, right now, it might write better than a human being. What’s fascinating about this particular computer program is that it knows nothing about poetry. It has no training in the formal history of such an activity, and yet it writes better than a human being who knows nothing about poetry. You would think that, surely, a computer that is ignorant of this activity wouldn’t be able to do a better job than a human who is ignorant of this same activity. And yet, I would probably prefer to read the doggerel written by this device than doggerel written by a human who has no training in poetry.

Student: Where do you think sound poetry is going now that it’s beginning to seem more like beat-boxing and vocal percussion?

Bök: Sound poetry — at least as it’s practiced by avant-garde poets — seems to be in decline. It’s waning. The greatest practitioners in the world, the people who, I think, are very influential, people like Paul Dutton or Jaap Blonk, are very classically minded in their activity. They use, as a musical metaphor, references to jazz for their practice. That’s the musical metaphor that’s typically evoked when describing what they do, and that seems increasingly antiquated — not illegitimate, but just an older notion of what it means to be a poet. There are no younger practitioners doing the same sort of activity. I’m maybe one of the few people my age who try to learn, to sustain, that older repertoire.

To me, the more virtuoso work is taking place among people who are doing musical mimicry, like the vocal percussionists. Rahzel or Dokaka are quite exceptional performers who make avant-garde practitioners look completely naive by comparison. It’s amazing how such beat-boxers can upstage other performers in athleticism and complexity. They are truly incredible. That’s why I feel obliged to learn that particular skill set: in order to expand my repertoire as a sound poet. I do it as a matter of course. I want to try to sustain this kind of practice; that’s one of the fertile avenues of exploration. It seems to me that those kinds of people in pop music — people whom you might hear on Björk’s most recent album Medulla — might be poets more so than musicians, although they’re functioning in a totally different, artistic universe.

Bob Perelman: I want to try and connect the beginning and the end of the reading. I was struck by … what’s the piece that you said was rough? The aphorisms, the second thing you read.

Bök: Yes, I would like to call that book — if I were to actually write it — Umlaut Machine.

Perelman: Yes, Umlaut Machine. I found your use of boring very interesting. That drilling is thrilling, but boring is boring. This is, in a way, an older discourse. I’m thinking of Bruce Andrews and others who find the extension of narrative, and the opera scenery that you have to drag around in each sentence in order to construct a normative, novelistic sentence, really hard work to just sit through.

But then hearing in Umlaut Machine some of the moments like “after Auschwitz, the barber …”

Bök: After Auschwitz, barbers are poetic.

Perelman: Barbers are poetic. Yes, right. On the one hand, it’s a totally great line. On the other hand, it’s problematic.

Bernstein: Sweeney Todd.

Perelman: But anyway, the boring: the long narratives outside strike me as something that you are going farther and farther away from. The trajectory of your work is more and more compressed so that the puns, the events, the thrills, are happening closer and closer together. So when you get to “Drum Rondo,” which I found exhilarating, there’s, say, ten thrills a second. It’s really much faster than syllables. What is it? Morphemes?

Bök: Yeah.

Perelman: What you said at the beginning of this discussion really resonated with me, that you always want to write a new book. You don’t ever want to repeat yourself. I’m wondering if the boring might be quite fertile territory. Can you speculate about where you might go? It’s almost like going through the looking glass rather than getting faster and faster and more and more dense. What might happen if you use this other scale, the longer scale, which is, I suppose, the novelistic, the boring? Your reading demonstrates that the boring can be really interesting.

Bök: Among my peer group, boredom is a value that’s discussed at length. Kenneth Goldsmith, a good friend of mine, describes himself as the most boring writer on the planet, and he predicates his entire career on retyping other people’s work. That’s his act of writing. He’s hoping that he can write his books while watching television. It would be great if writing were a form of crocheting that just takes place in the background of daily life. That’s really what he’s going for. There’s, of course, tremendous ennui in many of these texts. But under scrutiny, and certainly with effort — if you are actually willing to sit and read these works (and they’re often truly encyclopedic in scale) — they give up tremendous experiences of interest. We learn a great deal from these particular books.

Kenny likes to remark that, if he’s going to be boring, he wants to make sure that he is not “boring boring.” He should make a kind of interesting tedium. I use the IKEA phrase unböring, which is a more appealing word to me because it’s got the umlaut in it. The idea for him, in his work really, is that the tedium is the message. You see his tedium at play in an almost kind of Warholian excess. It’s that eating up of time that’s at play within his books. And it’s a lot of fun to see what the outcome of that process is. He often cites John Cage or Andy Warhol as important influences upon his practice.

If I’m doing something that’s boring, it better be interesting in some other way. I’m always worried that, as a performer, I’m actually having more fun than the audience. A boring person is somebody who’s actually taking interest in themselves when nobody else is. That to me, is what a boring person is. What’s cool about Kenny’s work, for example, is that, despite the fact that he’s taking a kind of total disinterest in himself, a very interesting activity nevertheless ensues.

When I was working on Eunoia, there were some very, very long processes of boredom. Days, if not weeks, would go by, with nothing but ennui and tedium. It was a very desperate kind of activity that required an enormous amount of commitment and perseverance, despite a lack of accomplishment, despite the fact that it was generating boredom. Nevertheless, I think that the outcome of the labor is a little more interesting than tedium. It’s a kind of new ennui that’s innovative, that’s fun to contemplate conceptually.

Jena Osman: Could you describe the way “Drum Rondo” looks on the page?

Bök: People often ask how the sound poetry gets scored. I always say: “Well, you’ll be very disappointed to note that it is written down the way it sounds.” It’s all written without many diacritical markups. I just use regular letters, and there are little “word-corpuscles” placed on the page in a manner designed to provide a mnemonic aid. Some sound poets actually go to great lengths to notate their work very thoroughly so that some other practitioner can come along and reproduce exactly the singular, original performance. I see something slightly fascistic in such an attitude, because it leaves little room for interpretation of, or additions to, the work.

In the case of musical notation, we don’t really know how any of the original composers might have performed their work, say, two or three hundred years ago. All we have is a whole series of interpretations, in which performers themselves have added their own timbre or tenor to each performance. Some of those performances become canonical; some of them are the ones that predominate. With “Drum Rondo,” all that I’ve done is to provide a code, a little bit of cryptography, a series of letters which correspond to the making of a sound. For example, if I want to make the kick-drum noise, that [sound] noise, I just notate it as capital B, little h, little m. [Sound.] And if I want to do a little high hat, a little high hat [sound] sound, right, I put that as a capital T. So, if I wanted to say [sound] [sound], right, it would be B-h-m, dash, capital T. And that’s how I notate the [sound] [sound]. You just string those sequences together, even though it looks completely meaningless. It’s not a semantic word that’s being created; it’s just providing a notation for me to remember so that I know the order in which I’m supposed to make these sound effects. I could, I suppose, substitute almost anything. I could have done little colored blocks, or something, as a sequence. But this is easier for me to do.

Everybody has their own idiosyncratic way of notating sound poetry now. Many avant-garde musicians have very idiosyncratic methods for notating their music, often because the standard, notational systems are now inappropriate for such kinds of composition. Moreover, many people can’t read music now because they’re resorting to computerized technology, like synthesizers, or other forms of digital sampling, which makes standard notation irrelevant as a practice, because you can manipulate already prefabricated noises. In a certain sense, all these sound poems pretty much look the way that they sound on the page. They’re just written down the way that they sound. People are often very disappointed to see that.

Osman: You say that you want each project you do to be completely different from the previous one. So, what’s next?

Bök: Well, I have two creative projects that I would like to do. I’m working on one which is a long sound poem, responding to the history of electronic music. A kind of techno music provides the model for this new, poetic practice. Most poets resort to jazz as their major, musical metaphor. To me, jazz is an increasingly Jurassic technology, and I would like to be able to respond to a much more contemporary model of music.

The other project that I would like to do, one that requires me to raise capital because I have to get scientists to assist me in the production of the book, would be to write a single poem which would be translated into a four-bit alphabet, in which each of the letters corresponds to one of the codons in a genetic sequence. Then I would actually translate the poem into a gene, which could be implanted in a bacterium with a retrovirus. You could actually have a little bacterium that would, in fact, be the living embodiment of the poem. It would be a very cool, conceptual art project. I’m in the midst of trying to raise capital to do this project, with grants.

Bernstein: It’s a good thing you’re doing that in Alberta, because we don’t allow that in the United States.

Bök: Right, we don’t allow that in the United States. I know that. That’s what I hear.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis: You talked twice here about stubborn commitment under desperate conditions, and I think that you meant writing conditions, but if you meant anything else I’d be interested.

Bök: Well, while I was working on Eunoia, I was a PhD student at York University. I was working sixty hours a week: forty at a retail book store, a giant monopoly. I spent the other twenty hours tutoring students in chemistry and algebra for fifty dollars an hour to make up for shortfalls in my income. Then I would go home, and I’d work for a few hours on my dissertation. I was trying to complete my graduate work at the time. Once that work had been completed, usually around ten or eleven o’clock at night, I would proceed to work from about eleven o’clock until four or five in the morning on Eunoia — and then I’d probably get up two or three hours later to go to work.

So, for about four or five years at least, I was quite sleepless — a real insomniac, I would crash on the weekends. I was unpleasant. I had a girlfriend at the time who complained about my commitment to this particular project. I couldn’t get money to support the project. It was impossible to get a grant. In the seven years I worked on it, I couldn’t seem to get funding for it. I felt vindicated when it was done — given that it was finally very successful.

DuPlessis: I wonder whether you can at least briefly comment on the material, ideological and the historical conditions of being a Canadian poet.

Bök: Canadian poetry, in effect, defines itself against the kind of colonial experience of being, at first, a political colony of Britain, and now an economic colony of the United States. There is, at least historically, a great deal of xenophobia around poets who are influenced by international practitioners of writing. For the last thirty or forty years, the main concern has been to produce a kind of homegrown, poetic experience that would be a lyric expression of innate “Canadianness.” What does it mean to be a Canadian? What exactly is a Canadian? I find these questions pretty tiresome because they always come up with the same set of clichés and hackneyed sentiments.

As a consequence, literary history in Canada is very conservative and doesn’t have a very rich avant-garde tradition. Despite the fact that the country has been around for as long as the avant-garde itself, it doesn’t have a long, or deep, experimental writing history. It’s very difficult to be a poet under such circumstances, especially if you are doing something unorthodox. At the same time, however, socialist democracy has meant that there is actually money available to support artistic endeavor and creative activity in a way that may not be the case now in the United States. But that’s changing of course. We have an increasingly conservative, political agenda in our country, which is threatening many of these institutions: cultural institutions created, in effect, to protect Canada from the cultural incursions of the United States.

Bernstein: You’ve been listening to Christian Bök on PennSound. I’m Charles Bernstein reminding you that close listening is sooner than you think.