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The Microbe as Art

At the Text Festival in Bury, UK, poet Christian Bök is doing something a bit unusual — his poem, The Xenotext, has been translated into DNA to be implanted into a bacterium, reports New Scientist's Jamie Condliffe. Bök tells Condliffe that the idea for The Xenotext came when he read an article describing how the lyrics to It's A Small World After All had been translated into genetic nucleotides and implanted into a bacterium. However, he added, in every case where something like this has been done, it has been with a republished text, and he felt it would be "a great basis for a poetic experiment" to write something original specifically for this purpose. In addition, the poem is designed to cause the bacterium to produce a viable protein once it's implanted, Bök tells Condliffe, a protein that will produce a completely different poem. Bök has yet to implant the poem into the target organism Deinococcus radiodurans. Once he does, he plans to write a book about the experiment.

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