21st poesiefestival berlin: Anne Carson, poetic activism, Canadian-German Versschmuggel/reVERSible

The 21st poesiefestival berlin is opening its doors in the Academy of Arts in Hanseatenweg from 5 to 11 June 2020 under the heading of Planet P, to take a closer look at our languages and our world.

Some of the highlights of this year's festival:


The country focus of this year’s poesiefestival berlin is directed at Canada. The 2020 Berlin Poetry Lecture is being given by the celebrated Canadian poet Anne Carson. In 13 short lectures, Carson will be making poetological and philosophical forays into Antiquity and her own childhood. She explains how poetry emerges from mistakes and how metaphors can teach us how to take pleasure in error.

We have invited 18 German, English and French-speaking poets as well as First Nations poets to take part in what will be a high-calibre VERSschmuggel/reVERSible translation workshop. In the run-up to the festival they will be translating each others’ poems in pairs, and the results will be presented in a long night of VERSschmuggel/reVERSible which is bound to be one of the festival highlights!

This year’s festival exhibition, Chorus, brings together Canadian and German sound artists, poets and video artists in a multi-media installation in three languages in which visitors also take part, sensor-guided by their movements. The exhibition will be opening a week before the start of the festival (on 30 May). Poésie Go! will provide additional entertainment for festival visitors at audio stations with poetry podcasts from Canada and Germany.

Poetry, politics and migration

A forum with Aleida Assmann will be dedicated to memory in social media and the Internet; an evening with Kathrin Passig and others will shed light on digital poetry and its distribution. Another event will feature poetry activists giving an insight into their working methods and the places where their poetry is created – prisons, cemeteries and ambulances, as for the Iraqi poet Kadhem Khanyar or public squares as for the Belgian Maud Vanhauwaert.

Migrant perspectives will be illuminated in an evening dedicated to the poetry of the African diaspora in Europe and in a joint event featuring four writers from the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) conference taking place at the same time.

Classics at the poesiefestival

A few days before the start of the festival, on 3 June, Poets’ Corner will present an evening of readings and performances taking place simultaneously by poets from seven different Berlin districts each in their own neighbourhoods.

The poesiefestival berlin will open with Weltklang, the long night of poetry, with nine poets from around the world reading and performing in their own languages, including this year among others Mircea Cărtărescu (Romania), who has been unknown as a poet in Germany up to now, Koleka Putuma (South Africa), whose Collective Amnesia is a bestseller in her homeland, and Ariana Reines (USA), who recently won the lucrative Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Those in the audience who can understand German can follow this concert of language with readers and small lights.

On the Sunday of the opening weekend, the Poetry Market will be inviting us to linger at market stalls full of the wares of 40 poetry publishers and magazines and listen to the readings in the Beech Garden.

An extensive accompanying programme for everyone aged 0-99 is offered by Poetic Education, with a programme in several languages, workshops with poets, a workshop for translating Anne Carson, queer poetry as well as lemonade tree lists and 75 years of Pippi Longstocking!

FRI 5.6.– THU 11.6.2020
21. poesiefestival berlin
Academy of Arts
Hanseatenweg 10
10557 Berlin

Run-up events
SAT 30.5.Chorus
Exhibition opening (exhibition runs until 11 June)
WED 3.6. Poets’ Corner
Readings in Berlin’s city districts