Festival for World Literature
Jan. 22–27, 2018 – Cologne

›Beyond Identities‹

Opening Event with the Poetica Authors
Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, 6.00 pm

University of Cologne, Aula II

Delving into reading matter, we often shed our identity, finding ourselves in an alien life. We go walking in Manhattan while living in Cologne. We witness torture under a dictatorship or bake madeleines in 1930’s Paris. Reading, we can change gender, become a child, an animal, a plant. Playing with identity is the attempt to understand humanity’s ability to transform. Literature has been exploring the enigmatic art of metamorphosis for millennia. 

The topic of the Poetica IV is ›Beyond Identities – The Art of Transformation‹, named by the festival’s Japanese-German curator Yoko Tawada, who will introduce all the authors through readings and conversations as a kick-off event for the festival week. The evening will begin with a welcoming address by Axel Freimuth (Rector of the University of Cologne) and the ›Minima Poetica‹ by Günter Blamberger (Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies) and Ernst Osterkamp (German Academy for Language and Literature). After the event, the University of Cologne hosts a reception.

With the Poetica authors Jeffrey Angles (USA), Anneke Brassinga (Netherlands), Teju Cole (USA/ Nigeria), Bei Dao (China), Kim Hyesoon (South Korea), Hiromi Ito (Japan), Barbara Köhler (Germany), Morten Søndergaard (Denmark), Monique Truong (USA/Vietnam) and Jan Wagner (Germany).

Musical performance by pianist Aki Takase.

With the actors Yuri Englert, Nicola Gründel and Philipp Plessmann.

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

Admission is free.

Literature in Dialog I

›Of Animals and Men‹
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, 2.00 pm

University of Cologne, Neuer Senatssaal

Taking Kafka’s text The Metamorphosis  as an example, the authors of Poetica IV will, together with the fellows of the Center of Advanced Studies Morphomata and the audience, discuss the animalistic side of the human and the human side of the animal, degrees of freedom and the fortune or the misfortune of the change of position in the ›great chain of being‹. How come that everyone around the world understands that Gregor Samsa turns into a giant insect?

Moderated by Yoko Tawada and Günter Blamberger.

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

Admission is free.

The Art of Transformation I

Readings and Conversations with Bei Dao, Teju Cole, Kim Hyesoon and Barbara Köhler
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, 7.30 pm

Cologne Public Library

In his texts and photographies, Teju Cole is moving through New York and Lagos like a flâneur and thereby deautomatises our perception of America and Africa, alienates the familiar and familiarises the alien. – For Bei Dao, the way back home can take longer than a lifetime. – Kim Hyesoon is a laterally thinking, female poet who pries open traditional images of feminism. – For Barbara Köhler, born in the GDR and now living in Duisburg, any topographic positioning was and remains complicated – may it be a place in the world or in literature or both. 

Moderated by Yoko Tawada and Gabriele Rippl.

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

With actor Yuri Englert.

Admission 8/6 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Creative Writing Workshop

with Yoko Tawada
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, 10.00 am

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies

During Poetica IV, students from the University of Cologne have the opportunity to present and review their works and ideas in a literary workshop hosted by Yoko Tawada. 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: Antonia Villinger (). The deadline is January 5th, 2018.


This event is not open to the public.

The Art of Transformation II

Readings and Conversations with Morten Søndergaard, Monique Truong and Jan Wagner
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, 7.30 pm

Literaturhaus Köln

Identity games are gender games are language games, that is how the Vietnamese-American author Monique Truong writes about the Vietnamese cook who works for Gertrude Stein in Paris. – In Jan Wagner’s poetry small things and little living beings become big ones, no matter if he writes about the bishop’s weed, the blackbird or about the sloe. – Morten Søndergaard’s inter-art-poetry ranges between presence and absence, localisation and delocalisation, between what is real and what is unreal. 

Moderated by Yoko Tawada, Heinrich Detering and Martin Hielscher.

The event will be held both in German and in 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

Literature in Dialog II

›Playing with Identities‹ Public Discussion
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 2.00 pm

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies

How do medicines affect our body? How do they affect our language? How can poetry help to play with identities? Those questions can serve as a starting point of Morten Søndergaard’s poetological experiment Wordpharmacy, commented by Jan Wagner. A Wordpharmacy, in which the word classes are kept in medication packaging, only to be freed through absurd comments from their functional classification as adverbs, verbs and so on.

Moderated by Yoko Tawada.

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

Admission is free.

The Art of Transformation III

Readings and Conversations with Jeffrey Angles, Anneke Brassinga and Hiromi Itō
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, 7.00 pm

The Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne 

»Had I not become a translator, I would never have started writing«, says Anneke Brassinga, as translating from one language, from one culture into another, is a practice of the art of transformation, just as the translation from the nature of things into the nature of signs, which succumb to our desire to give meaning to the world. – The poems of Jeffrey Angles are about the freedom to move between cultures and languages and genders. Jeffrey Angles, an American who writes in Japanese, since he does not want to be a slave of his mother tongue or the culture of his fatherland and who shows that the transition from one's own to a foreign language can be perceived as something corporal, intimate and erotic. – Hiromi Itō is one of the most prominent contemporary women writers in Japan that inspirits the voices of the everyday world and addresses topics like pregnancy, abortion, sex, aging and dying, including themes from Japanese mythology.

Moderated by Yoko Tawada.

With the actors Nicola Gründel und Philipp Plessmann.

In cooperation with The Japan Cultural Institute in Cologne. 

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

Admission 8/6 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Blind Spot

Workshop for students and postgraduates with Teju Cole
Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 10.00 am

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies

Teju Cole is a nomad who shows us fragments of a world that comes apart. In his photographies and prose texts that mysteriously refer to one another and reveal images in our thoughts, he creates a poetry of ›Blind Spots‹. The workshop will follow the traces of the repressed and will examine the efficacy of Teju Cole’s texts.

Moderated by Hanjo Berressem and Sinah Kloß.

This event will be held in English and is not open to the public.


with Yoko Tawada (Poetry), Naomi Sato (Shō) und Rie Wada (Calligraphy)
Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 7.00 pm


Yoko Tawada leads the language almost somnambulistically to its own speechlessness and thereby opens up a new language space, to occupy it for a short moment. Due to the calligraphies of Rie Wada and Naomi Sato’s shō playing the view on the Japanese culture opens up and the characters and sounds become a visual and musical partner of the reading. An evening of wondrous transformations.

The event will be held in German.

Admission 8/6 EUR

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

›Beyond Identities‹

Poetry Meets Scenery
Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, 8.00 pm

Schauspiel Köln, Depot 2

What happens when poetry meets the performing arts? The last evening of Poetica will bring on stage all authors once again 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. 

With the Poetica authors Jeffrey Angles (USA), Anneke Brassinga (Netherlands), Teju Cole (USA/ Nigeria), Bei Dao (China), Kim Hyesoon (South Korea), Hiromi Ito (Japan), Barbara Köhler (Germany), Morten Søndergaard (Denmark), Monique Truong (USA/Vietnam), Jan Wagner (Germany) and Yoko Tawada.

With the members of the ensemble, Yuri Englert, Justus Maier, Philipp Plessmann, Annika Schilling und Elisa Schlott.

Director and Music: Philipp Plessmann; Dramaturgy: Stawrula Panagiotaki; Scenography: Katrin Lehmacher; Costumes: Jean Louis Frère.

In cooperation with the Schauspiel Köln.

Admission 12/7 EUR

Tickets are available at Schauspiel Köln

( at +49 (0)221.221-284 00).