Artists 2013: Weltklang – Nacht der Poesie

Christian Bök

Christian Bök, born in Toronto, Canada, in 1966, combines language games and entertainment in wonderful ways. His books Chrystallography and Eunoia are poetic experiments in “clear writing” and “fine thinking”, with the latter collection bringing him the renowned Griffin Poetry Prize as well as being Canada’s best-selling poetry book. Bök continues the experimentation of concrete and sound poetry, doing homage to their great figures not only in his own texts but also in performances of classics such as Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate.

He was also able to indulge his playfulness in his work for two television series for which he invented artificial languages, and in his conceptual art works – his books made of Rubik’s cubes and Lego bricks were most recently on show in the Poetry Plastique exhibition in New York. Bök is also Associate Professor for English Literature at the University of Calgary.

Publications (a selection):

Crystallography (Kristallographie) (Coach House Press 1994/2003)
(Coach House Books 2001)
Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science
(Northwestern University Press 2001)

TJ Dema

Foto: Petra Rolinec

TJ Dema is a Spoken Word poet and arts manager born in Gaborone, Botswana, in 1981. She is the Chairwoman of the Writers’ Association of Botswana. About her passion for language she says, “I have always taken words – especially the spoken word – very seriously. We speak things into being; by expressing an opinion or thinking a thing out loud, you summon the intention behind it. It isn’t, but it is that simple.” She uses her texts to tell little stories – about Gaborone, where she was born, about the pain of a mother giving birth to a child, about ageing.

In 2005 TJ Dema took part in the British Council ‘Crossing Borders’ project and was a guest at many festivals, making her known beyond the boundaries of the African continent – her poems have already appeared in a Chinese anthology. In 2012 she recorded the album Dreaming Is A Gift For Me with twelve Botswanian poets in three of Botswana’s languages.


The Sonic Slam Chorus (2011)
Dreaming Is A Gift For Me

Oswald Egger


Oswald Egger was born in Lana in the Italian South Tirol in 1963 and is one of the greatest contemporary experimental poets. His texts move between disciplines and comprise elements of narrative, music, graphics and mathematics. They are at the same time experimental processes, reservoirs of language and incantations.

The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung has written of him, “Oswald Egger explores new linguistic territory as the Romantics once did. Like them, he loves archaic, primordial soundings.” His poems reveal their full range of sound when delivered out loud, but the many-faceted nature of his poetry can also be seen in his many collaborations with other artists for books and exhibitions.

Egger was the editor of the journal Der Prokurist and of the edition per procura series, and has been organising the Kulturtage Lana cultural festival for many years. Since 2003 he has been the editor of the Das böhmische Dorf series of publications and lectures. Egger is also the coordinator for literature of the Hombroich Museum Island and professor for ‘Gestalt and Language’ at the Muthesius School of Art in Kiel. Prizes he has received include the 2000 Clemens Brentano Prize, the 2007 Peter Huchel Prize and the 2010 Oskar Pastior Prize).

Publications (a selection):

Herde der Rede (Suhrkamp 1999)
Nichts, das ist
(Suhrkamp 2001)
-broich. Homotopien eines Gedichts
(Edition Korrespondenzen 2003)
nihilum album. Lieder & Gedichte
(Suhrkamp 2007)
Lustrationen. Vom poetischen Tun
(Suhrkamp 2008)
Diskrete Stetigkeit. Poesie und Mathematik
(Suhrkamp 2008)
Die ganze Zeit
(Suhrkamp 2010)

Luis García Montero

Foto: Daniel Morzinski

Luis García Montero was born in Granada, Spain, in 1958 and is a poet, novelist, essayist, and critic and one of Spain’s best- known writers. He was awarded the National Critics’ Prize for Poetry in 2003 for his book La intimidad de la serpiente, and other prizes for his work include the Spanish National Prize and the National Literature Prize. Since the beginning of the 80s he has published two novels, more than two dozen books of verse and a numerous essays and critical texts.

Montero’s poems are often narrative, mostly unrhymed and written in free rhythms. They deal with historical and biographical subjects, focusing on reflecting collective experience in personal destiny. In a language that is sonorous and only giving the appearance of simplicity, Montero narrates anecdotes and micro-novels in verse that also reflects his many years of political commitment to Spain’s Left.

Montero is a professor for literature at the University of Granada and lives with his family in Madrid.

Publications (a selection):

El jardín extranjero (Rialp 1983)
Habitaciones separadas
(Visor 1994)
Completamente viernes
(Tusquets 1998)
La intimidad de la serpiente
(Tusquets 2003) 
Vista cansada
(Visor 2008)
Mañana no será lo que Dios quiera
(Roman. Alfaguara 2009)
No me cuentes tu vida
(Roman. Planeta 2012)

Prizes (a selection):

Premio Adonáis de Poesia (1982), Premio Loewe (1994), Premio Nacional de Literatura, Nacional de la crítica (2003), Gremio de Libreros de Madrid and in Latin America the Premio Poetas del Mundo Latino (2010).

Ursula Krechel


Ursula Krechel was born in Trier, Germany, in 1947. According to Hans-Herbert Räkel writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, she writes “poems that are self-willed and intelligent, sometimes even humorous or sarcastic, and that encounter their readers like people – physically present, inviting, reticent or stand-offish, open or secretive, but never as messages to be decoded.” Her poems, as political as they are personal, as erudite as they are sensuously precise, work through myths, evoke epiphanies, describe moments as they can only happen in poems. While she was still working on her doctorate Krechel worked as a dramaturg for the Dortmund city theatres and led theatre projects with young remand prisoners. Her debut play Erika, first performed in 1974 and dealing with a secretary’s attempt at emancipation. It was translated into six languages. She published her first poetry in 1977, followed by a succession of volumes of verse, prose, radio plays and essays. Among many other prizes, Krechel was awarded the German Book Prize in 2012 for her novel Landgericht.

Publications (a selection):

Nach Mainz! (Luchterhand 1977)
Verwundbar wie in den besten Zeiten
(Luchterhand 1979)
Landläufiges Wunder
(Suhrkamp 1995)
Verbeugungen vor der Luft
(Residenz 1999)
Stimmen aus dem harten Kern
(Jung und Jung 2005)
(Zu Klampen 2006)
Jäh erhellte Dunkelheit
(Jung und Jung 2010)
(novel. Jung und Jung 2012)

Iman Mersal

Iman Mersal was born in Mit ‘Adlan in Egypt in 1966. She gained her doctorate from the University of Cairo and for several years edited the feminist cultural and literary journal Bint al-Ard (Daughters of the Earth). In 1998 she emigrated to the USA and now lives in Canada. Her poems recall the traditions of magic realism, with ambiguity and uncanniness presented in clear images. Childhood recollections tip into the surreal and she inscribes her split cultural experience into the body. The story of women shines through all her texts in ways that are sometimes subtle but sometimes blatant. To date, Mersal has published four collections of verse, which have been translated into several languages. In 2005 the film Stranger in her Own Skin was made, dealing with the experience of migration as reflected in her poetry.

Imam Mersal teaches Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Alberta, Canada.  She is currently living in Berlin. She currently lives in Berlin as a post-doctoral fellow in the EUME – Europe in the Middle East, the Middle East in Europe – research programme at the Forum for Transregional Studies.

Publications (a selection):

Ittisafat (Characterisations) (Dar al-Ghad 1990)
Mamarr mu'tim yasluh lita'allum al-raqs
(A dark gait in enough for learning to dance) (Dar Sharqiyat 1995)
Al-Mashy Atwal Waqt Mumkin
(Walking – as long as possible) (Dar Sharqiyat 1997)
Jughrafiya Badila
(Alternative Geography) (Dar Sharqiyat 2006)
Hatta atakhalla `an fikrat al-buyut
(Until I give up the idea of home) (Dar Sharqiyat / Dar al-Tanwir 2013)

Don Paterson

Don Paterson Foto: McLeod

Don Paterson, born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1963, is thought of as one of the greatest poetic talents of his generation. A master of classical forms and poet of everyday things, Paterson’s poetry is in the tradition of Scottish poetry without being traditionalistic. Whether he writes about the death of a pet, morphine boxes lying around or the felling of an old tree, there’s always more at stake in a Paterson poem. One could even say everything is at stake. The Independent wrote of him that he is “one of the few contemporary poets whose work combines postmodern playfulness with a feel for the yearning for transcendence.”

His preoccupation with poetry has always run parallel to his preoccupation with music. In 1984 Paterson moved to London to work as a jazz musician and started writing poems at about the same time. During the 90s he lived between England and Scotland and between art forms. He wrote and played music, wrote columns on painting and reviewed video games for the Times. Even now he works in several genres, writing aphorisms and plays for stage and radio as well as poems and continuing to compose music. He is the poetry editor for the renowned Picador publishing house and Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews. He has published six volumes of poetry since 1993 and won many prizes, being the first poet to win the T.S. Eliot Prize twice. He was made an OBE in 2008.

Publications (a selection):

Nil Nil (Faber 1993)
God's Gift to Women (Faber 1997)
White Lie. Selected Poems (Graywolf 2001)
Landing Light (Faber 2003)
Orpheus – after Rilke's Die Sonette an Orpheus (Faber 2006)
Rain (Faber 2009)

The Maw Naing

The Maw Naing, born in Myin Gyan, Myanmar, in 1971 studied IT and is a poet, performance artist, painter and filmmaker. His first book of verse, published in 1988, is a pointed commentary in surrealistic images on the political upheavals in Myanmar.

The Maw Naing’s poems do not merely interrogate the present-day social situation, but also the role of the subject in it, with the author himself becoming a field of experimentation for changes in meaning and reascribings. His poems are frequently an integral part of his installations, performances and films, which have brought him many prizes and awards.

His short documentary Again and Again was invited to among others the 2007 American Anthropological Association Film Festival. The Maw Naing’s works have been shown in Asia and in the USA. In 2009 he received a fellowship from the Czech FAMU film school in Prague.

Publications (a selection):

Immerse the oar gently circle its blade over the circle (Myanmar, 2006)

Films (a selection):

Again and Again (director, 2005)
… are not as
(director, 2006)
Beyond the Tsunami
(music, 2007)
Yangon Wheel
(co- director, 2008)
close your eyes, close your mouth, close your ear
(director, 2009)

Natan Zach

Natan Zach was born in Berlin in 1930 and is one of Israel’s most important contemporary poets. His poetry is full of allusions and ambiguities and characterised by understatement and ironic fractures. Many of his poems have been set to music and are part of today’s Israeli pop music.

Natan Zach played a crucial role in the modernisation od Israeli literature. He rejected traditional formalisation and broke with the conventions by combining conversational language with biblical and rabbinic Hebrew and joining the group Likrat (Against), which turned against the lyrical pathos of zionist poetry.

Zach has also brought Hebrew literature into the modern age by editing and translating poets such as Bertolt Brecht, Paul Celan, Else Lasker-Schüler and Allen Ginsberg. In 1967, together with the Palestinian poet Rashid Hussein, he translated Arabic folk songs.

Zach was born in Berlin to a German Jewish fatjer and an Italian mother. His family fled to Haifa when he was six years old. Today, after spending many years in England, he lives back in Israel.

Zach has received many awards and distinctions, including the Bialik Prize for Literature (1982) and the Israel Prize for Hebrew Poetry (1995). In 2002 he was named as the Ambassador of Cultural Rome in the World.

Publications (a selection):

Shirim Rishonim (First Poems) (Ha-masa 1955)
Shirim Shonim
(Other Poems) (Alef 1960)
Bimkom Halom
(A Dream Instead) (Massada Gallery 1966)
(Anti-erasure) (Hakibbutz Hameuchad 1984)
Key Ha'adam Hoo Etz Hasadeh
(For Man is a Tree of the Field) (Tammuz 1999)