Festival for World Literature
April 17–22, 2023 – Cologne

»Das chorische Ich / The choral I«

Opening event with Poetica authors
Monday, Apr. 17, 2023, 7.00 pm

University of Cologne, Aula I+II

The choral I is the entity of common truth in Greek poetry and the chorus of Attic tragedies that is authenticated in myth. Since the Renaissance, lyric poetry has been viewed as the most subjective and free of all genres. The resurgence of choral poetry during the dictatorships of the twentieth century intensified the skepticism towards poetic speech performed in the name of a community, especially in Germany. But the poetics of the invited poets follow a different path. Their texts raise questions about the possibility of speaking in the name of others today given the global crises that can only be overcome collectively. They speak, for instance, in the name of an attacked minority, of a nation whose liberty is under threat, or of nature that has been treated poorly. The question of »writing in the name of« should not be left to those who claim to be the people or to those who think they know the right ideology.
For the opening of Poetica 8, curator Christian Filips has invited poets who dare to represent others in their texts. The evening’s readings and conversations will be accompanied by a festival choir from the urban community; it will commence with a welcome address by Axel Freimuth, the University of Cologne’s rector.

With Daniela Danz (Germany), Logan February (Nigeria), Lionel Fogarty (Australia), Kim de l'Horizon (Switzerland), Kateryna Kalytko (Ukraine), Els Moors (Belgium), James Noël (Haiti), Patti Smith (USA), Sukirtharani (India), Zheng Xiaoqiong (China, digital appearance) and curator Christian Filips.

Music: Poetica-Festivalchoir (Collegium musicum: Choir of the University of Cologne & Oratorienchor Köln & Rodenkirchener Kammerchor, musical direction: Joachim Geibel and Arndt Martin Henzelmann), Leo Bögeholz Gründer (timpani), Henrik Hasenberg (e-piano), Norbert Schmeißer (trombone).

The German translations will be read by Philipp Plessmann and Katharina Schmalenberg. 

The evening will be recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur as media partner. The broadcast (in an shortened version) is scheduled for April 30, starting at 10 p.m.

The event will be held both in German and in English.
Admission is free.

»Writing in the name of«

Public discussion with Poetica authors
Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023, 2.00 pm

University of Cologne, Neuer Senatssaal

Writing prose or poetry in someone’s name can either be a successful act of representation or one of violent appropriation. In this public discussion, the Poetica authors will talk about what it means to write poetry in the name of a community today. How does such poetic speech in the first-person plural become legitimate and where does such legitimacy come from? Who is allowed to speak for or against specific communities? What kind of poetic speech is appropriate and necessary and in the name of whom? Where does misappropriation happen? »Can the Subaltern speak?« as Gayatri Spivak asked way back in 1988. What about poetic representation for agents who aren’t able to speak for themselves yet or who no longer can or who can only do such to a limited degree? How to speak for the dead, for future generations, for the environment?
The Hungarian poet Ágnes Nemes Nagy once declared that she wanted »to obtain citizenship for an increasing horde of nameless« in her poems. It seems as if the task of poetry is to name the nameless. But are there not names that should remain unnamed, unspoken, on ice? When is it necessary to call a spade a spade? And when is it best to remain silent about something because it isn’t possible to speak about it yet?

Moderated by Christian Filips

The event will be held both in English.
Admission is free.

»I contain multitudes«

Reading and talk with Patti Smith
Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023, 7.00 pm

University of Cologne, Aula I + II

Patti Smith, »the godmother of punk« is a legendary singer-songwriter. But she actually sees herself as a poet who ended up in the music world by chance. This fact makes it all the more astonishing that her poems and song lyrics have hardly been translated into German – in contrast to her autobiographical prose. Together with curator Christian Filips, Patti Smith will speak about her poetry which is as indebted to French Symbolism as it is to William Blake and the Beat Generation. For half a century, the poet Patti Smith has also repeatedly spoken out as a political activist, singing on behalf of those who do not have a voice. »I contain multitudes« – this line by Walt Whitman haunts her poems as a motto. How does this relate to the possibilities and limits of poetic representation? Who would she not dare to speak for?
On this evening, Patti Smith will also be present as a photographer with pictures from her Book of Days (2022), an experiment on Instagram that evoked the poetry of the moment every day for a whole year – and was accompanied by millions of followers. We encounter a whole chorus of poets in these snapshots: Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas, Jean Genet, and many others who have become part of the »multitude of Patti Smith.«

Moderated by Christian Filips

The talk will be in English and translated into German sign language (DGS).
Admission 12/8 EUR
Tickets are available via the advance ticket sale here and at the door.

»What does the chorus inside you sing?«

Literary workshop with Christian Filips and Els Moors
Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2023, 10.00 am

University of Cologne, Dozierenden-Zimmer in the main building

As part of Poetica 8, students from the University of Cologne and the Academy of Media Arts will have the opportunity to convene for a literary workshop and present their own texts to one another, along with the curator of Poetica, Christian Filips, and the Belgian poet Els Moors. Only students enrolled at the University of Cologne or the Academy of Media Arts are allowed to participate.

The assignment for the literary workshop:
How does one speak on behalf of a group, an attacked minority, or a nation? Our aim in this workshop is to explore what it means to write »in someone’s name«. As a text sample, we ask participants to bring a maximum of five poems (or two prose texts) about the possibility or impossibility of speaking vicariously. In the name of others. In the name of the nameless. In the name of things, animals, plants. In the name of those who are not seen or those who are excluded. What is the name of the poetic or literary entity that is given a voice in one’s texts? Is it perhaps a chorus?

Applicants are asked to send their texts to Amelie Liebst:
Application deadline is March 17, 2023.
In cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.

This event is not open to the public.

»How does one defend oneself against all these names«*

Readings and talks with Logan February, Christian Filips and Kim de l’Horizon
Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2023, 7.00 pm

FORUM Adult Education Center at the Museum am Neumarkt

How does poetry defend itself against false names and designations? Kim de l’Horizon has turned their own birth name into an anagram and literally shifted the patronymic. In their novel Blutbuch, a fluid writing practice counters inherited attributions: a whole chorus of voices suspends binary systems of thought and conjures up new names.
»In Yoruba, a father is a name« reads a line from the Nigerian poet Logan February. The self-chosen surname »February« is also a renunciation of the birth name »Akinwale«. The law of fathers is countered by poems that speak on behalf of Nigeria’s queer community: »Skin translates to flesh translates to body«.
Christian Filips, curator of Poetica 8, will read from Heiße Fusionen and Heischesätze, which turn against rigid concepts of identity as well as against the grips of the market.

*Change of programme: An event with Édouard Louis was originally announced here, who had to cancel his participation in Poetica 8 for personal reasons. We are delighted to welcome Kim de l'Horizon to the Festival in his place.

Moderated by Christian Filips
The German translations will be read by Katharina Schmalenberg.
In cooperation with the Adult Education Center of Cologne.

The event will be held both in German and English.
Admission 12/8 EUR
Tickets are available via the advance ticket sale here and at the door.

»What is in a name?«

Public discussion with poetica authors
Thursday, Apr. 20, 2023, 2.00 pm

Academy of Media Arts Cologne, Aula

»What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.« In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s asserted that names are interchangeable. Gertrude Stein protested this, insisting that the name »rose« creates an identity and can only be replaced by itself. How does this work with proper names? Are they interchangeable or are they identical to themselves?
This discussion will look at the self-chosen, ascribed, and appropriated names, at noms de plume and heteronyms. Speaking and writing in one’s »own« name always relates to a »biomythography« (Audre Lorde) that connects history, biography, origins, and myth with one another. The names of Logan February, Kim de l'Horizon and Lionel Fogarty are not identical with their birthnames. They are poetic constructions, strategies of self-defense. The Indian poet Sukirtharani can speak about this herself: »There is a difference between the identity one takes upon oneself and the one that others force on to you. When I am at home, I don’t have to think about my caste, but the moment I set foot outside of my house, caste chases after me like a dog.«

Moderated by Christian Filips.
In cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne.

The event will be held in English.
Admission is free.

»Working Class Poetry«

Readings and talks with Lionel Fogarty, James Noël, Sukirtharani and Zheng Xiaoqiong*
Thursday, Apr. 20, 2023, 7.00 pm

Central Library of the Cologne Public Library

Is there a poetry of the »working class« right now? In Germany, it seems like the industrial proletariat hardly exists anymore. Although there has long been a new proletariat of service and care work, its poetic representation hasn’t become visible yet.
The situation is different on the scale of world literature. This reading presents the »working class poets« of Australia, China, Haiti, and India. Their poems are documents of political labor that don’t merely serve the function of  representation but which enhance this through beauty. The poet Zheng Xiaoqiong records the reality of a migrant worker on the global market and counters the impotence of alienated labor with a poetry of self-empowerment. James Noël, who learned the craft of glazing, charts a worldwide »migration of walls« in his poems. With her poetry against the caste system, Sukirtharani fights on behalf of the »untouchables«, the Dalit, and for the oppressed women of India. Lionel Fogarty, »the greatest living Australian poet« (John Kinsella), has been a spokesman and activist for the Murri community since his youth. His poems are directed against the elimination of Indigenous languages and puncture holes in the English language of the colonizers.

* Zheng Xiaoqiong will be present with a digital reading.

Moderated by Christian Filips
The German translations will be read by Philipp Plessmann and Katharina Schmalenberg.
In Cooperation with the Cologne Public Library.

The event will be held both in German and English.
Admission 12/8 EUR
Tickets are available via the advance ticket sale here and at the door.

»In the name of the earth, in the name of the country«

Readings and talks with Daniela Danz, Kateryna Kalytko, and Els Moors
Friday, Apr. 21, 2023, 7.00 pm

Kölnischer Kunstverein

How can speech be given to non-human entities is a question that’s becoming increasingly urgent. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River was recently granted the status of a legal entity. What rights can be extended to animals, rivers, ecosystems, and countries? This question not only pertains to the language of the law, but to the language of a poetry that wants to speak in the name of justice. This evening brings together three poets who try to write in the name of the earth or of a country. 
In her poems, Daniela Danz allows for a wilderness to speak that fights back and overruns civilization. The conversation will focus on how contemporary »nature writing« relates to Hölderlin’s concept of the »fatherland« and how a false understanding of it is what was driving the NSU, whose deeds Danz addressed in her opera libretto The Murder of Halit Yozgat. In 2018/19, Moors was named the »Poet of the Fatherland« in Belgium and has supported her country’s activists with a »Climate song«. She visited Ukraine in the summer of 2020.
The poems of Kateryna Kalytko show the task of poetry in times of war. In her texts the traditions of Ukrainian folk songs and Orthodox Church chants are as present as the experiences of the Russian war of aggression.

Moderated by Christian Filips and Els Moors.
In cooperation with the Literaturhaus Cologne.

The event will be held both in German and English.
Admission 12/8/6 EUR
Tickets are available at Literaturhaus Cologne and at the door.

»Poetry Workers«

Poetry meets Scenery
Saturday, Apr. 22, 2023, 7.30 pm

Schauspiel Köln, Depot 1

That poetry plays a major role in work is proven by the countless songs and poems from world literature that are intended to rhythmically bolster and lighten the workload: the boatsmen shanties and the songs of weaving, whetting, and scything. On top of this, work has often been the subject of poetry. In Patti Smith’s »Piss Factory« for instance or in the poems of Zheng Xiaoqiong, which document the current labor market in China. But can’t poetry itself be understood as labor, as a specific form of social activity that repeals alienated labor?
For the last evening of Poetica, Philipp Plessmann’s production brings the working in and on poems onto the stage. In so doing, a rather improbable worker’s choir from the future is formed in the Depot 1 of the Schauspiel Köln, which includes poets, actors, and musicians, as well as three choir ensembles from Cologne’s urban community.

With the authors Daniela Danz (Germany), Logan February (Nigeria), Lionel Fogarty (Australia), Kateryna Kalytko (Ukraine), Els Moors (Belgium), James Noël (Haiti), Sukirtharani (India), Zheng Xiaoqiong (China, digital appearance) and curator Christian Filips (Germany), the actors Yuri Englert, Philipp Plessmann, Katharina Schmalenberg, Kristin Steffen and the Poetica-Festivalchoir (Collegium musicum: Choir of the University of Cologne & Oratorienchor Köln & Rodenkirchener Kammerchor, musical direction: Joachim Geibel and Arndt Martin Henzelmann), Leo Bögeholz Gründer (timpani), Henrik Hasenberg (piano) and Norbert Schmeißer (trombone).
Direction, acting: Philipp Plessmann; Stage design: Kathrin Lehmacher; Costumes: Melina Jusczyk; Dramaturgy: Antonia Ortmanns, Christian Filips 
In cooperation with Schauspiel Köln.

Admission 15/8 EUR
Tickets are available here via the Schauspiel Köln website.