Just as Beautiful

Imagine writing a poem by assigning to every letter of the alphabet some other letter, so that they are mutually assigned—so, for example, if I were to assign E to A, I’d have to assign A to E; if I were to assign D to T, I’d have to assign T to D, and so on. Imagine enciphering the alphabet according to such a rule. There are about 8 trillion different ways of enciphering the alphabet so that the letters are mutually encoded. Pick one of those 8 trillion ciphers. Now write a poem that is beautiful, that makes sense, in such a way that if you were to swap out every single letter of that poem and replace it with its counterpart from the mutual cipher, you’d produce a new poem that still remains just as beautiful and that still makes sense.

Christian Bök interviewed by Jonathan Ball, in The Believer, Vol. 7, No. 5, June 2009. (via Harper's).