I bitch, I kibitz….


Eunoia is the shortest word in the English language to contain all the vowels. It is also the title of a delightful book of verbal games written by Christian Bok.

Unlike the Oulipoians who exclude one vowel, ‘e’ as in the case of Georges Perec’s A Void, Bok’s enterprise in Eunoia is to have five sections of ten to eleven line paragraphs, each developing a kind of story, and using only one vowel for each section.

Below, one of my favourites, which only uses ‘i’. The dedication is to ‘Dick Higgins,’ and here is the first paragraph/stanza, what you will:

Writing is inhibiting. Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks – impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Isn’t it glib? Isn’t it chic? I fit childish insights within rigid limits, writing shtick which might instill priggish misgivings in critics blind with hindsight. I dismiss nit-picking criticism which flirts with philistinism. I bitch; I kibitz – griping whilst criticizing dimwits, sniping whilst indicting nitwits, dismissing simplistic thinking, in which philippic wit is still illicit.

Wildly funny, as are many of the other verses. To hear the artist performing the above:


Christian Bok won the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2002 for this work and the book sold 11,000 copies, unusual for poetry.

On checking this date I found that at the end of May this year he was said to be leaving Canada to live in Australia. Anyone seen him around?

Footnote: Aha! https://www.cdu.edu.au/enews/stories/christian-bok@

6 thoughts on “I bitch, I kibitz….

  1. The hardest thing, with any such restricting exercise, is to make it appear unforced, and the example you quote almost convinces. Kudos to him, though! As I also understand that ‘facetious’ is the shortest English word that contains all the vowels in alphabetical order I hope you won’t think my first comment was thus intended to be!

  2. This writing is hard to do and some vowels seem to lend themselves to the process more than others. ‘U’ for example is difficult, but ‘e’ is more flexible.

    Another small sample from Eunoia

    Whenever Helen sleeps, her fevered rest meekens her; hence, she re-emerges enfeebled- her strength, expended: her reserves, depleted.

    And you could never be facetious, Chris!

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