Festival for World Literature
Jan. 9–14, 2017 – Cologne

›The Soul and Its Languages‹

Opening Event with the Poetica Authors
Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, 6.00 pm

University of Cologne, Aula II

What is the soul? Is it a salon, at the bottom of a lake, or a cool breath of deep despair? A reed bed, the sound of a flute, a breath extending into the heavens, a divinely ordained interrelation, a lynx at breakneck speed, hands trembling in black air, a channel for the murmur of part-time gastronomical gurus, a last sip that drinks itself, or one big, very nervous stomach for all of us to share?

These are images and thoughts quoted from the authors who will come to Cologne for Poetica III in order to explore ›The Soul and Its Languages‹ together with the festival’s curator, German poet and essayist Monika Rinck. The opening event, which will take place in the Aula (auditorium) of the University of Cologne, will introduce the Poetica authors through conversations with the curator and readings of their texts (in their original language and in German translation).

The evening will begin with a welcoming address by Axel Freimuth (Rector of the University of Cologne) and Barbara Foerster (Culture Office of the City of Cologne), sponsors of Poetica. In addition, Günter Blamberger (Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies) and Heinrich Detering (German Academy for Language and Literature) will present ›Minima Poetica‹. Following the event, Morphomata will host a reception to which all are welcome.

With the Poetica authors Javier Bello (Chile), Michael Donhauser (Austria), Nurduran Duman (Turkey), Maricela Guerrero (Mexico), Gila Lustiger (Germany/France), Angelika Meier (Germany), Zeruya Shalev (Israel), Eleni Sikelianos (USA), Galsan Tschinag (Mongolia), Stefan Weidner (Germany), and Monika Rinck (curator of Poetica).

With the actors Seán McDonagh and Ines Marie Westernströer

The event will be held in both German and English.

Admission is free.

›A Breath, a Sound, a Body‹

Brief Presentations Followed by Discussion
Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 2.00 pm

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies

The festival’s first afternoon discussion begins with three brief presentations. In Hebrew, Greek, and Latin the word ›soul‹ (nephesch, psyché, anima) refers to the breath of life. With this etymological background, Lorenz Wilkens, scholar of religious studies, unfolds a phenomenology of breath.

Michael Donhauser explores the poem as a language of the soul, the sound as the opposite of the name. »What is called the landscape of the soul is a painted song.« Is it even possible to argue for a language of the soul, or would that be its immediate death?

Angelika Meier approaches the notion of the soul with a certain skepticism. A salvation of the soul that is eternal and, yet, can go to hell—is that not a cruel, unreasonable demand? And what if the soul doesn’t speak to me because I don’t have one? Or might the soul be silent after all? Finally, however, watching the horror movie The Void, Meier realizes that she did not only go to the movies with Wittgenstein and Kafka, but also with a ghost-like ›body-soul.‹

Moderated by Günter Blamberger and Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in both German and English.

Admission is free.

›Erschütterung,‹ ›Pain,‹ and ›Die Schuld der anderen‹

Readings and Conversations with Gila Lustiger and Zeruya Shalev
Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 7.00 pm

Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Stiftersaal

A pain that does not subside lingers in our memory; it breaks our routines, silences us or, on the contrary, it pushes us to search for a language that enables us to tell what happened to us in a healthy, therapeutic way. How the sudden manifestation of violence—be it the personal trauma of an unforeseen withdrawal of love or the collective trauma of a terrorist attack—completely changes all the relationships within a family, leaving no detail unaffected, is precisely what Zeruya Shalev describes in her autofictional novel Pain.

Erschütterung: Über den Terror—thus runs the title of an essay by Gila Lustiger, written in immediate response to the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015. Shortly before these events, her novel Die Schuld der anderen was published. It describes the growth of violence in the French banlieues, the gradual destabilization of a society that creates its own enemies. Lustiger’s thorough documentary investigation—finding its expression in a genuine literary form—enables a space for shared reflection, a space that allows us to question social conventions to begin with.

Moderated by Günter Blamberger and Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in both German and English and will be simultaneously translated.

With actress Katharina Schmalenberg

In cooperation with the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum

Admission 8/6 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Creative Writing Workshop

with Monika Rinck
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, 10.00 am

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies

If one wants to learn painting or sculpting, one can apply to one of the many Academies of Fine Arts in Germany. The options for prospective writers are, however, limited to a few institutions—in Leipzig, Tübingen, and Hildesheim. As if writing were the only art that could neither be taught nor learned, German universities typically do not offer creative writing workshops for students.

During Poetica III, students from the University of Cologne have the opportunity to present and review their works and ideas in a literary workshop hosted by Monika Rinck. The number of participants in this half-day workshop is limited. Participants must be enrolled as students at the University of Cologne. Those interested in participating must send a poetic writing sample to: Annika Gerigk, Internationales Kolleg Morphomata, Universität zu Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Cologne (). The deadline is December 18, 2016.

This event is not open to the public.

›The Living, the Dead, Love, and the Four Seasons‹

Readings and Conversations with Michael Donhauser, Nurduran Duman, and Eleni Sikelianos
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, 7.30 pm

Literaturhaus Köln

The question of the soul also raises the question of its possible shapes. Reincarnated souls, traveling messengers of the soul, souls that take the shape of animals, flowers, and the elements are but empty phrases of consolation for poets, prophets, religious founders, gurus, and all sorts of people in search for salvation. In her work, American poet Eleni Sikelianos is able to transpose these seemingly esoteric questions into questions of grammar. How can sentence structures capture our losses without concealing them? What are words able to do? Sikelianos is a distant poet of transitory intermediate beings who tells of mourning and shadow ghosts replacing our organs and of spirits that we carry within ourselves throughout our lives.

»And then the night, it was cold then and far, / it was then that fell, light as snow, a despair / into the soul, into arms a lack, and / the footsteps still sounded, and the lights laid themselves like / hands upon the asphalt paths.« In his complex idylls, Austrian poet Michael Donhauser appears as a virtuoso of conjunctions. In these idylls, the abstract and the concrete are closely, yet, not too tightly, linked, keeping each other in balance. Some parts seem to effortlessly reach over into the allegorical, but this ›meaning-more-than-what-is-written‹ does not cancel out the concrete; on the contrary, it enriches it. Donhauser’s juxtapositions and variations of leaves, scent, light, umbels, shadows, birds, railway switches, vetches, rust, elder, fury and leaves, over and over, produce a beauty that does not need to deny its underlying sadness.

Turkish poet Nurduran Duman puts her work into relation with that of Rumi, the Persian Sufi mystic. She dedicates her cycle of poems to the Ney, the traditional Persian reed flute, which Rumi praises as an instrument for elevating the soul. Every poem of Duman’s cycle Neynur begins with a couplet from Rumi’s famous The Song of the Reed. It is a lament: Just as the reed of the flute is taken from the community of reeds, the soul longs to return to a lost unity. »i was the saz sounding with Nur i stopped being joyful / i was never played again / but i learned the hole in the heart yearning from seven spaces.«

Moderated by Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in German and English.

In cooperation with the Literaturhaus

Admission 8/6/4 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door and in advance from Offticket (www.offticket.de) or the following bookshops:
Lengfeld’sche Buchhandlung, Kolpingplatz,
T. +49 (0)221-257 84 03
Buchhandlung Bittner, Albertusstraße, T. +49 (0)221-257 48 70
Der andere Buchladen, Ubierring, T. +49 (0)221-32 95 08
Buchhandlung Goltsteinstraße (Bayenthal),
T. +49 (0)221-340 07 17

›Guided Metempsychosis: On the Translation of Poems‹

Public Discussion
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, 2.00 pm

University of Cologne, Neuer Senatssaal

If one translates a poem from one language into another, it is not enough to render its semantics more or less accurately. One also has to pay attention to the sound, the rhythm, the rhyme, and other qualities belonging to the phenomenon of the poem, constituting its beauty. Could we call these elusive qualities a poem’s soul? If the bold venture of translating a poem is successful, the poem’s soul might arrive, a little exhausted after a long migration through languages, yet, unharmed, at the rest stop of a new language where, ideally, it is welcomed with food and drinks and even offered the option to stay forever.

Or is this notion of a successful translation all-too idyllic; should one not instead bring to mind, with Rosmarie Waldrop, the rupture, the conflict inherent in any translation? ›Translating means killing!‹

Stefan Weidner, Islamic scholar and translator from the Arabic, and Monika Rinck, curator of Poetica III, will explore these questions along with Lorenz Wilkens, a religious scholar trained in questions of translation from his work in the Biblical context.

Moderated by Günter Blamberger and Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in German.

Admission is free.

›On the Margin Line of the Soul‹

Readings and Conversations with Javier Bello, Maricela Guerrero, Angelika Meier, and Galsan Tschinag
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, 8.00 pm

Cologne Public Library

In the works of Angelika Meier, fantasy and realism are brought together in an exemplary way— sober and hallucinogenic in equal parts. Meier is able to produce, in ways unlike anybody else, strange normalizations of the unfathomable. What may appear like a bold metaphor in the exposition suddenly reveals itself as pure concretion. Her most recent novel Osmo unfolds the story of a motley crew of characters at a California solar plant by following the inevitable logic of a heat stroke. In drawing the tragicomic utopia of an obsolete future technology, Meier encounters, in the middle of the American desert, the margin line of the soul, »a slightly curved line, a hand’s breadth wide, sharply defined, buried deep in the ground.«

Javier Bello’s poetic power of association builds entire satellite cities; it builds satellites, planets, as well as the outer space it simultaneously inhabits. Maybe there is already too little space in this universe for all the new universes Bello creates in his poems with great sincerity and a reckless urge to combine. His vibrant, new affiliations are very improbable. His swift use of metaphors undermines our habits of perception and reminds us that the so-called free-associative powers also contain moments of inevitability: Something comes upon us, we have to think of it. And, everything that has been imagined does also exist, says Javier Bello.

Maricela Guerrero is a Mexican poet and performer whose readings are suffused with dazzling exhilaration. It only takes a tiny gesture and her audience suddenly finds itself in the deep sea, becoming acquainted with chatty shellfish. Before our eyes, hybrid beings are created, made of kraken and physical therapy, crabs brag about their pinching claws, and your family doctor has but one diagnosis today: You pushed it too far, you are a blowfish. With tremendous courage and great humor, Guerrero moves between »forces that attract each other and forces that reject each other: between forces that dance and forces that turn stiff on infinite mortuary slabs.«

In addition to his native D’wadl (Tuvan), Mongolian writer and shaman Galsan Tschinag speaks four languages: Kazakh, Mongolian, Russian, as well as German, the language in which he writes his books. »Poetry,« Tschinag notes, »is the humming voice of every living being’s soul. However, according to the nomadic-shamanic understanding of the world, not only human beings and animals, grasses and trees are animated, but also the waters and rocks, the winds and lights. And the poet is the one who listens carefully to all these voices within ourselves and around us.«

Moderated by Benjamin Loy and Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in German and English.

In cooperation with the Public Library Cologne

Admission 8/6 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

›The Translator of Desires‹

Reading and Conversation with Stefan Weidner
Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, 7.30 pm


Stefan Weidner will present his translation of Ibn Arabi and read from Arabi’s collection of love poems from the Arab Middle Ages.

»I respond to her, at eve and morn, with the plaintive cry of a longing man and the moan of an impassioned lover. / The spirits faced one another in the thicket of ghadá trees and bent their branches toward me, and it (the bending) annihilated me.« Thus read the lines from a poem written in Arabic more than 700 hundreds years ago. In 2016, the first complete German translation of Tarjumán al-ashwaq—a collection of love poems by Ibn Arabi (1165–1240)—was finally published, entitled Der Übersetzer der Sehnsüchte (The Translator of Desires). Stefan Weidner, Islamic scholar and translator, met the challenge of this translation. The difficulty, Weidner notes, primarily consisted in translating both The Translator of Desires and the desires themselves. »I would, then, not actually be a translator,« Weidner writes, »but a poet, because ›ultimately all poetry is translation‹ (Novalis).«

Moderated by Monika Rinck.

The event will be held in German.

Admission 8/6 EUR

Combined ticket for both evening events 12/10 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

›Spirit and Soul – Songs for the Last Call‹

with Chris Fesch, Monika Rinck, Michael Schmidt, and Franz Tröger
Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, 9.30 pm


The Pre-Socratics may have claimed that the soul cannot survive in damp conditions, but, then again, they also claimed that the sun is the size of a human foot. We look at things a little differently now: During the evening ›Spirit and Soul,‹ music will manifest as the language of the soul, kindred to swimming and floating, and with an affinity to fluids. It might not sound as an infinite melody, but rather an infinitely repeated song beginning where it is about to stop—a song that can easily postpone the last call for a moment. Seventy refrains for being late for death: radical and hesitant, skewed and intoxicated—up to the point where even the last Pre-Socratic will dance with the ‘beautiful soul’ in a never-ending polonaise through the streets of Cologne.

Theater musician Franz Tröger composed the ›Songs for the Last Call‹ as an opus infinitum, a cycle of songs Monika Rinck has been writing since 2008. The piece is staged brilliantly by Chris Fesch and accompanied by Michael Schmidt on bass guitar.

With Chris Fesch (vocals), Monika Rinck (words), Michael Schmidt (bass), and Franz Tröger (piano, plingplong, harmonica, accordion)

Admission 8/6 EUR

Combined ticket for both evening events 12/10 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

›The Soul and Its Languages: Poetry Meets Scenery‹

Staged Adaptations with the Poetica Authors
Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, 8.00 pm

Schauspiel Köln, Depot 2

The soul has to work hard on stage. Because, actually, it is the soul that moves our body—at least according to Antiquity. The soul is the reason our feet are animated to move forward, our hands to touch, our eyes to see, and our tongues to speak. The curious voice of poetry meets with the stirrings of the soul on stage. Nobody knows what will happen.

The last evening of Poetica will bring on stage all of the authors one more time through poems in foreign and familiar languages and through staged adaptations of their works by actors and musicians of the Cologne Theater. The performance will be followed by the opportunity to talk with authors and actors over food and drinks and to maybe even…dance.

With the Poetica authors Javier Bello (Chile), Michael Donhauser (Austria), Nurduran Duman (Turkey), Maricela Guerrero (Mexico), Gila Lustiger (Germany/France), Angelika Meier (Germany), Eleni Sikelianos (USA), Galsan Tschinag (Mongolia), Stefan Weidner (Germany), and Monika Rinck (curator of Poetica).

With the members of the ensemble, Seán McDonagh, Philipp Pleßmann, Marlene Tanczik, and Ines Marie Westernströer. Director: Matthias Köhler; Dramaturgy: Stawrula Panagiotaki; Scenography: Elise Sophia Richter; Costumes: Jean Louis Frère; Music: Philipp Pleßmann.
In cooperation with the Schauspiel Köln

Admission 12/7 EUR

Tickets are available from the Schauspielhaus ( or at +49 (0)221.221-284 00).