Artists 2015: Weltklang – Night of Poetry

Zang Di

Zang Di (c) privat

Zang Di (pseudonym of Zang Li), born 1964, is a lecturer in Chinese Literature in Beijing is counted as one of China’s best contemporary poets. He has published books of poetry and edited several influential anthologies, translations and poetry magazines. His work combines Chinese and international literary and cultural traditions in an ingenious way. His complex, multi-layered texts are frequently described as avant-garde poetry. He was in fact one of the first Chinese poets to turn away both from the sentimentalist tradition and the open social criticism of 90s poetry in China and take a more experimental postmodern approach. With great technical skill, associative ease and astounding wordplays, he probes the limits of language. This combination of dry tone, complexity of thought and humour has made Zang Di an inspiration in China for a whole generation of young poets. Although he has won many prizes in China for his work, he is still too little known internationally.

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs (c) Jose V.

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, born in 1970 in New York, USA, is a DJane and poet who draws on myths, mixing more than a dozen languages including Maori, Hindi, Urdu und Swahili into an urban, Babylonian song in her texts. Her book TwERK (the title refers to the high art of arse shaking in Hip-Hop) is about reanimated eels and will o’ the wisp baby mosquitoes and the mystical hips of Michael Jackson, who was crowned ‘King Sani’ on the Ivory Coast. Her poem about Suri Cruise makes surprising connections between Björk, alpacas and Scientology.
Even before the publication of her book TwERK gained so much attention, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs had already made a name for herself with numerous chapbooks including Ichi-Ban, Ni-Ban and Manuel is destroying my bathroom. She has also released the album Televisión.

Publications (a selection): Ichi-Ban, MOH Press, 1998; Ni-Ban, MOH Press, 2001; Manuel is destroying my bathroom, Belladonna, 2004; TwERK, Belladonna, 2013; Music: Televisión (album) 2003

Jochen Distelmeyer

Jochen Distelmeyer (c) Frank Zauritz

Jochen Distelmeyer, born in 1967 in Bielefeld, has revolutionised the language of German pop music as the singer and songwriter of the band Blumfeld. Rich in discourse and educated, unbourgeois and at the same time bulky, he manages to merge the most various word materials – political punchlines, distorted quotes and apparent diary entries - into a highly energised language for poetry.
Distelmeyer’s lyrics triggered many years of exegesis, even among academics, and have been sampled even by such poets as Durs Grünbein. As the newspaper taz puts it, “Quotes from his songs have become part of pop’s DNA”.
After Blumfeld split up in 2007, Distelmeyer embarked on a solo career. In September 2009 his album Heavy was released. In 2014 the original line-up of Blumfeld did a tour to mark the 20th anniversary of their groundbreaking album L’état et moi, which once again showed how contemporary and powerful Distelmeyer’s songs still are.
In February 2015 Distelmeyer published his first novel, Otis. For Weltklang, however, the focus will not be on the novelist, but on Distelmeyer’s music and lyrics since the end of the 90s, which he will be presenting in a short, rare solo performance.

Publications (a selection): Albums: Blumfeld: Ich-Maschine (1992); Blumfeld: L’état et moi (1994); Blumfeld: Old Nobody (1999); Blumfeld: Testament der Angst (2001); Blumfeld: Jenseits von Jedem (2003); Blumfeld: Verbotene Früchte (2006); Jochen Distelmeyer: Heavy (2009)
Novel: Otis (2015, Rowohlt Verlag)

Elena Fanailova

Elena Fanailova (c) Alexander Tjagny-Rjadno

Elena Fanailova, born in 1962 in Voronesh, Russia, is many things at the same time: a trained doctor, a philologist and a radio reporter. But above all she is Russia’s most important contemporary woman poet and one of the severest critics of Vladimir Putin. Fanailova is a political artist in the emphatic sense, as a proponent of a new form of littérature engage. For her, the most noble job of the poet is to put into words what other people are unable or unwilling to say. In doing so she is explicitly following in the footsteps of Osip Mandelstam, a poet she deeply admires.
One of the main concerns of Fanailova’s work, a unique contribution to the “effect of the native language / in the country of nature reserves”, is a deep interrogation of the shifting history of her country. Her poems are complex in their language and ideas and speak of her country’s crises and wars from the Second World War to Afghanistan, Chechenya and the Ukraine conflict. At the same time, Fanailova is a master of extremely personal poems of remembrance of wonderful tenderness. Fanailova studied Medicine and Linguistics in Voronesh, where she worked for six years as a doctor. At the end of the 90s she moved to Moscow and worked as a correspondent for Svoboda Radio (Radio Freedom). In 1999 she was awarded the Andrei Bely Prize, Russia’s oldest independent literary prize.

Publications (a selection): The Russian Version, Ugly Duckling, 2009


L-ness (c) Ralf Rafee

L-ness, born in 1979 in Nakuru, Kenya, is the pseudonym of Lydia Owano Akwabi, also known as “Lioness” or “Madadadigital”, and is one of the most charismatic femcees of African Hip-Hop. She does not rap in Swahili or English, the two official languages of Kenya, but in Sheng, a hybrid language which developed in the slums of Nairobi and gradually became the lingua franca of the Underground there. The art of L-ness, well summed up as ‘Gal Power’, impresses with the directness and sheer energy and force of her delivery. For her, Hip Hop is an “international culture of consciousness” which possesses the unique power to bring together people of very different origins and education.
L-ness woerks as a radio presenter with VotuRadio Africa and together with the NGO Elimu Sanifu, organises Hip Hop workshops for disadvantaded schoolchiildren.

Publications (a selection): Music: Simangwe (album) 2011; Gal Power (album) 2012; Punch (album) 2013

Reiner Kunze

Reiner Kunze (c) Jürgen Bauer

Reiner Kunze, born 1933 in Oelsnitz in the Erzgebirge Mountains, is a master of the art of excision, of the condensation of language by reduction. No other German poet is able to write so precisely and vividly in such a tight fit of space as Kunze does.
In 1977 he was expelled from the GDR and settled in West Germany. “no longer the lie / having to kiss the ring” as he says in one of his poems. At an early age he had found himself in opposition to the political system in the GDR. In 1959 he had to give up his teaching position at the University Leipzig and worked instead as an assistant metalworker in the heavy machine construction industry. His first collection with exclusively his own poems, Vögel über dem Tau (Birds over the Tau) appeared the same year.
Kunze’s expulsion from the GDR was preceded by his expulsion from the Writers’ Union, a situation he described in a poem at the time as “locked out of books / locked out of papers / locked out of halls”. His Stasi file later bore the code name ‘Lyrik’ (‘Poetry’).
Since then, Reiner Kunze has published more than thirty collections of poems, including for children, as well as prose, essays and translations. He has won many prizes, inclusing the Georg-Büchner Prize in 1977. His poetry has long been on the syllabus in schools. Kunze can with justification be called a classic of contemporary German poetry.
Publications in English: The Lovely Years, Sidgwick and Jackson 1978 (out of print); In Time of Need, A Conversation about Poetry, Resistance and Exile (with Mireille Gansel), Libris 2006

Márió Z. Nemes

Mario Nemes (c) Gabi Csutak

Márió Z. Nemes (b. 1982 in Ajka, Hungary) is a poet, writer and critic who is seen as one of the major figures in the younger generation of poets in Hungary.

He published his first work around the turn of the millennium, and since then Nemes has published his texts and criticism in all leading Hungarian literary magazines and journals. He is a member of the Attila József Young Writers’ Union and of the Hungarian PEN Centre.

In 2005 together with ten other young poets Nemes founded and looked after the web blog Telep [Settlements], which quickly became the go-to place for the flourishing contemporary poetry movement in Hungary. This online activity ended in 2009 on the publication of a joint anthology in book form. Nemes is currently present online as editor of the cultural theory fanzine Technology and the Uncanny.

In early 2009 Nemes was awarded the Móricz Zsigmond Literature Fellowship for Poetry. In 2013 he gained his doctorate from the Philosophy Faculty at Eötvös Loránd University. Márió Z. Nemes lives in Budapest. In 2014 he was a fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Publications (selection):

Alkalmi magyarázatok a húsról, József Attila Kör-L'Harmattan 2006

Bauxit, Prae 2010

A hercegprímás elsírja magát, Libri 2014

Puschkins Brüste, Edition Solitude 2016

Christian Prigent

Christian Prigent (c) Vanda Benes

Poet and literary critic Christian Prigent, born in 1945 in Saint-Brieuc, France, challenges his readers to accept the new and leave the familiar appearance and sound of words behind. He is searching for a “living language that articulates its particularity in opposition to any collectivisation of experience, of the unconscious or of styles”. Prigent is obsessive in creating an authorship as ‘ôteur’ – of an author perforating himself as much as the stereotypes of the linguistic present around him. He links discourses and opens up poetic echo chambers in which even the great voices in the poetic tradition are reconstructed and deconstructed. In bold knots of sound, word-mergers and metaphors, Prigent constantly releases a wild swarm for the senses.
Since the 1960s this doctor of philosophy has been taking the stage with his very different poems, still – witty, experimental and provocative – part of the dynamic French avant-garde. Prigent is also a founder of the journal TXT and winner of the 2007 Prix Louis Guilloux. He has lived in Rome and Berlin and, since 2007, back in his original home, Brittany.

Publications (a selection): La belle journée (poems) 1969; La Langue et ses monstres (essay), POL, 1989; Peep-Show (novel in verse), Le Bleu du Ciel, 2006; Demain je meurs (novel), POL, 2007; Météo des plages (novel in verse), POL, 2010; Compile (CD with book), POL, 2011; La Vie moderne (poems), POL, Paris, 2012; Les Enfances Chino (novel), POL, 2013;

In English: An Anatomy Lesson (translated by Adrian Kien) Free Poetry 2010

Lisa Robertson

Lisa Robertson (c) Joan Guenther

Lisa Robertson was born 1961 in Toronto, Canada. Her poems are the perfect unity of abstraction and sensuality; in them the boundary between the lucidity of a thought and the eroticism of its poetic expression in language is lifted. Robertson also sees her work as a critique of neo-liberal capitalism from a feminist point of view. For her, thought itself is a form of political action taking place within the boundaries of our language.
Robertson deals with the tension between form, body and emotion, combining such different thematic areas as gender issues, weather forecasts and architecture, but also writes with equal knowledge of pornography and Baroque sentence structure and ornamentation. Her influences range from Lucretius and Virgil’s Eclogues to the Young Marble Giants, The Slits and Patti Smith. Her interests are so many and varied and the richness of her language is so astounding that the formation of synapses in the brains of her readers accelerates by leaps and bounds.
Lisa Robertson lives in Paris. As well as poems, she writes important essays and translates from the French.

Publications (a selection): The Apothecary, Tsunami, 1991; Debbie: An Epic, New Star, 1997; Soft Architecture: A Manifesto, Artspeak Gallery, 1999; The Weather, New Star, 2001; Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture, Clear Cut Press, 2003; Rousseau’s Boat, Nomados, 2004; The Men: A Lyric Book, BookThug, 2006; Lisa Robertson's Magenta Soul Whip, Coach House Press, 2009; R's Boat, University of California Press, 2010; Nilling: Prose, BookThug, 2012; Cinema Of the Present, Coach House Press, 2014