Festival for World Literature
January 22–27, 2024 – Cologne

»After Nature«

Opening event with the Poetica 9 authors
Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, 7.00 pm

University of Cologne, Aula I+II

Nature writing, ecopoetry: these are terms for genres from Western, or, more specifically, Anglo-American literary theory. They’re search words for a poetry of the Anthropocene that holds a mirror up to human intervention in nature and participates in debates about climate change or species extinction. As a festival for world literature, Poetica 9 will be dedicated to the relationship between nature, poetry, and history, and will thereby expand the search field, particularly by showing the global diversity in contemporary nature poetry and the widely differing cultural traditions and literary forms that poets from Colombia, England, Greece, Iran, Japan, North Macedonia, Switzerland, USA, or Germany refer to in their poetry.
For the opening of Poetica 9, ten authors from Europe, Asia, North, Central, and South America, will present their texts in short readings, providing information about their poetic stance in a discussion with curator Daniela Danz. It will commence with a welcome address by Prof. Dr. Joybrato Mukherjee, the University of Cologne’s rector.

With Ali Abdollahi (Iran), Takako Arai (Japan), Camille T. Dungy (USA), Kendel Hippolyte (St. Lucia), Esther Kinsky (Germany), Nikola Madžirov (North Macedonia), María Paz Guerrero (Colombia), Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari, UK), Liana Sakelliou (Greece), Raphael Urweider (Switzerland) and Poetica 9 curator Daniela Danz.
With the actors and musicians Philipp Plessmann, Yuri Englert and Yvon Jansen.

The evening will be recorded by Deutschlandfunk Kultur as a media partner and broadcast on January 28, 2024 at 10 p.m.

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

»What are poets for in times of ecological crisis«

Public discussion with the authors of Poetica
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, 2.00 pm

University of Cologne, Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies, Library

At a time when »bread and wine« were still not produced industrially, Friedrich Hölderlin, the author of the elegy of the same name, nevertheless felt that there was so much wrong in the world that he had misgivings about the meaning of poetry. »What are poets for in a destitute time?« he asked, only to give an answer elsewhere: »But what endures comes from the poets. « Centuries later, this is echoed in Kendel Hippolyte’s »but the poet’s words will last,« which admittedly isn’t as upbeat as hoped for: »It will be the poet’s words coming at you in the thundering sermon of the landslide, in the revenging wind swearing down through the valley, the crackling of the sun gone wild.« Can poetry give a voice to nature? But how do poets know what nature says, how do they hear it, what language do they find for it, and does this speaking extend beyond lamentation and accusation? The communal thinking about these and other questions will be preceded by statements from the poets.

Hosted by Daniela Danz and Kate Rigby.
In cooperation with the Multidisciplinary Environmental Studies in the Humanities (MESH) and the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies.

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

»We’ll write songs in the dark«

Reading and talk with Rou Reynolds (Enter Shikari)
Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, 7.00 pm

Kulturkirche Köln Nippes

That lyrics have a political meaning is »like second nature to us, that’s what music is for« (Rou Reynolds). Climate change, the overexploitation of natural resources, and criticism of the economic system are the most important issues in Rou Reynolds’ lyrics for the British band Enter Shikari. In the song Arguing with thermometers, he writes: »That’s the sound of another door shutting in/ In the face of progress…/ Back to the drawing board, boys/ Accept nothing short of complete reversal.« Rou Reynolds’ lyrics are small, nimble entities advocating for collective insight into the urgency for action. In conjunction with Enter Shikari’s music, they act as an »all inclusive activity,« concerned with creating an impetus to evoke creative powers in the listener. And the texts juxtapose the combative determination of the music with the vulnerability of personally being at the mercy of someone else.
The conversation with Rou Reynolds will focus on the belief of the transformative power of words and music. And it will surely also be about whether a song that implores us to go back to the drawing board and make new plans is a lonely one, since in the end everything is about what’s most personal: »So to keep us from falling apart/ We’ll write songs in the dark.«

Hosted by Daniela Danz.

The event will be held in English.
Admission 15/8 EUR
Tickets are available via the advanced ticket sale here and at the door.

»Through the thicket of ideas — speaking into the open«

Literary workshop with Daniela Danz
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, 10.00 am

University of Cologne, Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies, Library

Writing about nature is writing about the personal experience and subjective perception of nature. Given the urgency of the matter, it remains difficult to avoid truisms, to steer clear from ideological phrases and agitations, and to write about what makes up the core of poetry: to find what can be said only so and in no other way. As part of Poetica 9, students from the University of Cologne and the Academy of Media Arts Cologne will have the opportunity to present their texts and discuss them with the other participants in a literary workshop. Only students enrolled at one of the universities are allowed to participate.
Applicants are asked to submit text samples (five poems or a maximum of two pages of prose/drama) that address subjective moments that capture the interrelationship between humans and nature. 

Please send your texts to Amelie Liebst: .
The application deadline is December 20, 2023.
In cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies.

This event is not open to the public.

»Gestörtes Gelände / Disturbed Lands«

Readings and talks with Camille T. Dungy, Esther Kinsky, and María Paz Guerrero
Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, 7.00 pm

FORUM Adult Education Center at the Museum am Neumarkt

Three continents, three women, three perspectives on a society that exploits nature—partly carelessly, partly intentionally, and partly involuntarily. In her long poem, God is a bitch, too, the Colombian poet María Paz Guerrero sends a female god into the human wasteland of the present and into the misery overshadowed by the destruction of all resources and the unholy desire to enjoy small pleasures, for, God isn’t able to make great financial leaps either. Equally saturated by the present, Camille T. Dungy’s texts relate the small, yet world-changing insights she gains from her dialogue with nature while digging in the soil. She also deflects the racism she encounters as an African American woman with observations of sparrows outside her window: »The grackles/ […] so bright within their blackness, I pray they will stay.« Using the term »disturbed terrain« from natural history, the German author Esther Kinsky sees it as a metaphor for how human traces are inscribed in nature. In her poems, she wants to reclaim the openness of nature writing from its narrow definition: »layered work from an intervention in the state of things that deprives us of all names.«

Hosted by: Daniela Danz
The German translations will be read by Philipp Plessmann.
In cooperation with the Adult Education Center of Cologne.


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

»Lost Words – Lost Worlds«

Public Discussion with Poetica authors
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, 2.00 pm

University of Cologne, Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies, Library

In the beautifully illustrated volume The Lost Words (2017), the British author Robert Macfarlane describes an experience that many have had: the disappearance of rarely used animal names in the use of language. Likewise, Kendel Hippolyte speaks of the fruit »miwiz«, which none of his students were familiar with, and which he could only barely remember seeing—only as a flash of lightning that ran through his thoughts. Those who have never heard the nightingale’s song will still be able to infer from poems what it might sound like. What’s lost when the creatures behind the words are no longer part of our lives? Or when we no longer feel connected to them since we no longer share a common narrative? What’s lost when we’re no longer able to distinguish between ducks and seagulls, as Camille T. Dungy describes in a crucial moment of her book Soil (2023)? All the names of agricultural equipment and activities disappear with the necessity for their existence or implementation, just as other words for digital skills emerge.
Each Poetica 9 author will bring an object or image that he or she associates with lost words, lost experiences, lost experiences of nature, and will then talk about the potential role of poetry to act as a refuge for these words.

Hosted by: Daniela Danz and Kate Rigby
In cooperation with the Multidisciplinary Environmental Studies in the Humanities (MESH) and the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies.

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

»Have you ever been there behind the leaves«

Readings and talks with Nikola Madžirov, Liana Sakelliou, and Raphael Urweider
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, 7.00 pm

Central Library of the Cologne Public Library 

When fire storms into the poem, when the physical experience of heat, of smoke, wedges itself between life and poem, a kind of literature emerges that has a fundamental connection to nature in its very core. The threat of one’s own existence is intertwined with the threat to poetic expression. Liana Sakelliou weaves into a love story the horror of the wildfires that ravaged her homeland—moments when the reality of fire threatens to consume the written word. Nevertheless, poetry asserts its presence behind the leaves. Nikola Madžirov’s poems are testimonies of the poetic expression of losses, the inner shocks left by an earthquake and the societal upheavals in his homeland. They embed the unheard of events into all the monstrosities of former times and yet remain quiet testimonials to the courage of contemporaneity and the defiance of inexplicable confidence. Raphael Urweider’s new poems do not lose the lightness that the play with language can generate even while they clearly speak about moments of despair. His verses lay tracks and cover them—in a forest that, as in a game of deception, is both a metaphor and a natural space.

Hosted by: Daniela Danz
The German translations will be read by Philipp Plessmann.
In cooperation with the Cologne Public Library.

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

»Earth will erupt in a Conspiracy of Poetry and Nature«

Readings and talks with Ali Abdollahi, Takako Arai and Kendel Hippolyte
Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, 7.00 pm

Filmforum at the Museum Ludwig

»Storm, oh storm/ I’m a storm myself,« standing in the long tradition of Persian nature poetry, Ali Abdollahi’s verses read like secret messages of a sad reality passing from one actuality to another. Against the backdrop of the oppression of an entire population, the rage of the farmers towards a corrupt government that does nothing to counter to the existential threats of climate change are but one battlefield amongst many. »In the morning, we count the dead/ In the newspapers, in the hospitals, on the streets/ On the beach, beneath the rubble that used to be homes/ We need your ghostly dance, Amenouzume,« Takako Arai’s lines bring us to the other side of the world—to Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in 2011. Invoking the Japanese god Amenouzume with her ritual dance to bring forth a morning so that the dead can be counted is an attempt at creating a poetic and religious awareness. At the same time, it also resonates with Kendel Hippolyte’s vision of an animate nature that global warming is committing violence upon, a violence one would never inflict on any mother, as he calls the Earth. His poems are as moving as they are evocative of the perceivable threats to his Caribbean homeland, which he seeks to give a different future through poetry: »re-write / this island / I-land.«

Hosted by: Daniela Danz
The German translations will be read by Yuri Englert.
In cooperation with the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and the Literaturhaus Cologne.

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

»The world’s restlessness will be with us«

Poetry meets Scenery
Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, 8.00 pm

Schauspiel Köln, Depot 2

The final evening will bring all the authors together once again. The voices of this choir are meant to be heard »after nature,« united in a production that lures nature into the theater’s interior. And it makes connections between poems about the threatened island paradise of the Caribbean and the threat posed by the Japanese nuclear industry, between digging into the earth and laments about droughts, and between the attempt to find a language for one’s own relationship with nature that goes beyond everyday understanding. All of this in the hope that an echo will reverberate, changing us from how we were when we entered this conversation.

With the authors Ali Abdollahi (Iran), Takako Arai (Japan), Camille T. Dungy (USA), Kendel Hippolyte (St. Lucia), Esther Kinsky (Germany), Nikola Madžirov (North Macedonia), María Paz Guerrero (Colombia), Liana Sakelliou (Greece), Raphael Urweider (Switzerland), as well as the curator Daniela Danz (Germany) and the actors Yuri Englert, Yvon Jansen, Justus Maier, Philipp Plessmann and Brit Purwin.
Direction, acting: Philipp Plessmann; Stage design: Katrin Lehmacher; Costumes: Han Lai; Dramaturgy: Sarah Lorenz
In cooperation with Schauspiel Köln.

Admission 16/8 EUR
Tickets are available via the Schauspiel Köln website or at the door.