On Saturday, 28.04 @ 18.00 in the Main Hall, Salon, Free entrance!
Poetry against the right!
Nazis & Goldmund sees itself as a poetological monstrosity with many heads. It critically observes the development and actions of Europe’s right-movements and their international alliances, as well as examines and attacks their narrative and intervention strategies. Since 2016 the Berlin and Vienna collective has been scratching away layer by layer of the gold-plated expressions of the new right-movement.
In Graz the five authors will be reading from their new project – a disassembly of the Austrian government program – and following this invite to a angst-detox, a collective meditation for getting rid of phantoms and monsters. Because angst isn’t a way of looking at the world.
With: Jörg Albrecht, Thomas Arzt, Sandra Gugić, Thomas Köck, Gerhild Steinbuch, Gerhard Ruiss, Isolde Charim
From May 24-27, 2018, the Ars Baltica accredited project “European Festival of the First Novel” takes place in Kiel again. Since 2003 new prose from ten European countries formed the heart of the European Festival of the First Novel. This year, eleven novelists, their editors and other literarily professionals will discuss writing and publishing and acquaint themselves with new novels.
The opening reading gala, meetings with students at the Christian-Albrechts-University, and the following literary conference are giving the participants, the public audience, and the conference guests a forum for exchange on literature, language, and ways of promoting and transferring literature in Europe.
The participants of the festival 2018 are:
Austria: Mascha Dabić „Reibungsverluste“, Wiener Edition Atelier
Finland: Hanna Weselius „Alma!“, WSOY
Denmark: Tine Høeg „Nye Rejsende“, Rosinante
Germany: Karosh Taha „Beschreibung einer Krabbenwanderung“, Dumont
Italy: Francesca Manfredi „Un buon posto dove stare“, La nave di Teseo
Netherlands: Jente Posthuma „Mensen zonder uitstraling“, Atlas Contact
Switzerland: Frédéric Zwicker „Hier können Sie im Kreis gehen“, Nagel & Kimche Verlag
Excerpts of the debut novels will be presented during the public reading „Lesefest“ at the Literaturhaus in Kiel on Thursday, May 24, 2018, from 7 pm to 11 pm (2 breaks in between). The authors will read short sequences from their novels in the original language before the professional readers Jule Nero and Nils Aulike will present excerpts from the German sample translations.
Since mid 2013 a new literary format has been appearing in Forum Stadtpark, one that displays the shortest literary forms in public space: GLORYHOLE – messages from beyond.
This literary format is a so called canvas-screen-literary-magazine that appears in a new edition each month and is being projected to the outer canvas screen of FORUM STADTPARK every night. Through the day the current edition can be seen on a screen in a window next to the entrance to FORUM STADTPARK.
The current edition has been prepared by the German poet Mara Genschel, born in 1982 in Bonn, currently living in Berlin. After short studies of music science in Cologne and school music at the University for Music in Detmold, she majored from the German Institute for Literature in Leipzig. 2008 her first collection of poetry was published, since then she has been developing other literary formats.
2009 an artist book with a CD was made in collaboration with the sound-poet Valeri Scherstjanoi. Besides that she took part in various short plays, radio-plays and text-films. Other collaborations include the composer Martin Schüttler, as well as other visual artists, musicians and laymen.
In 2012 she started an individual book project that bundles her poems in a booklet with her handwritten interventions. The publications were released in a small print at cost price – open end.
To see more of the installations that were created as part of the GLORYHOLE project visit their Vimeo channel.
2018 will mark the celebration of our diverse cultural heritage across Europe. The European Year of Cultural Heritage project aimsto encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe’s cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. Their slogan:
Our heritage: where the past meets the future.
In the starting year of the initiative a series of initiatives and events across Europe will begin to develop, to enable people to become closer to and more involved with their cultural heritage. Cultural heritage shapes our identities and everyday lives. It surrounds us in Europe’s towns and cities, natural landscapes and archaeological sites. It is not only found in literature, art and objects, but also in the crafts we learn from our ancestors, the stories we tell to our children, the food we enjoy in company and the films we watch and recognise ourselves in.
Why Cultural Heritage?
Cultural heritage has a universal value for us as individuals, communities and societies. It is important to preserve and pass on to future generations. You may think of heritage as being ‘from the past’ or static, but it actually evolves though our engagement with it. What is more, our heritage has a big role to play in building the future of Europe. That is one reason why we want to reach out to young people in particular during the European Year.
Cultural heritage comes in many shapes and forms.
tangible – for example buildings, monuments, artefacts, clothing, artwork, books, machines, historic towns, archaeological sites.
intangible – practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – and the associated instruments, objects and cultural spaces – that people value. This includes language and oral traditions, performing arts, social practices and traditional craftsmanship.
natural – landscapes, flora and fauna.
digital – resources that were created in digital form (for example digital art or animation) or that have been digitalised as a way to preserve them (including text, images, video, records).
Through cherishing our cultural heritage, we can discover our diversity and start an inter-cultural conversation about what we have in common. So what better way to enrich our lives than by interacting with something so central to who we are?
Cultural heritage should not be left to decay, deterioration or destruction. This is why in 2018, we search for ways to celebrate and preserve it.
Most of the text was taken from the project introduction at http://europa.eu/cultural-heritage/node/2_en. Visit the site to read about what 2018 has in store in more detail, and remember to check back when the exciting feature of browsing their events by country will be live!
This interview was first published at http://literaturwissenschaft-berlin.de
Jake Schneider is the editor in chief of SAND, Berlin’s English literary journal. His translation of Ron Winkler’s poetry collection Fragmentierte Gewässer (Fragmented Waters) was released by Shearsman Books last October. He works as a freelance translator from German to English.
Interview by Chris Fenwick
Copyright by http://literaturwissenschaft-berlin.de
SAND is an English-language journal based in a German city. How do you think it differs from journals in English-speaking countries?
SAND itself is a Berliner by birth, even if virtually everyone who’s worked on it over the past eight years is a Berliner by choice, born elsewhere and likely to move on eventually. This a city of fleeting convergences, eager arrivals and sudden departures, and all that history has left many layers of unique creative residue, which is why we aren’t just a direct transplant from some other place where English is the official language.
In cosmopolitan Berlin, English now represents a kind of horizontal communication, often between people who grew up speaking a third or fourth language. English is the language people arriving here speak. That makes it a symbol of inclusion, while German is a daunting gate that fresh Berliners who are serious about settling down can only pass with years of study and practice.
So yes, the “global” status of English comes at the heels of the British Empire and (fading) American hegemony. But that background is irrelevant to international Berliners trying to meet halfway for a conversation. Compared to the scenes in languages like French, Russian and Hebrew that are by nature less accessible to people from other countries, the English scene represents a semi-neutral internationalism.
Maybe if we at SAND had more homogeneous backgrounds, matching passports and a common frame of reference, we would be a little more like those other English-speaking journals back “home.” But we simply don’t draw on a singular, default national experience. We don’t share any other home. Everything we publish is equally “foreign” and therefore equally relevant.
In addition to the expected Americans and Brits, we’ve featured contributors from all five continents, many of them living outside their countries of birth. For example, Avital Gad-Cykman, whose flash fiction piece “Two Peas” will appear in the new issue, is an Israeli living in Brazil who writes in English. (We’re very excited she’ll be here in person to read at the launch party this week.) Our team currently has at least seven nationalities. None of this is deliberate, but it certainly informs our perspective and the work we find interesting.
Is there a large readership outside of the city?
Our far-flung contributors do spread the word, and social media helps. We have a small following among a tightknit group of past contributors around Southeast Asia, and we’re now scheming on a collaboration with them.
For the moment, we sell (hand-delivered) copies at about 20 local bookstores as well as at events and through our website. It would be beautiful, but logistically tricky, to get copies onto shelves in more countries. Last year we added our very first international stockist, who’s been great to work with: the legendary Athenaeum in Amsterdam.
How would you describe the “literary scene” in Berlin? Or is the idea of a “literary scene” an illusion, since writing can be something of a solitary pursuit?
The literary scene in Berlin has been feverish lately. Writing itself is a solitary pursuit, but writers and other literary people need a community to provide inspiration and feedback, celebrate accomplishments and impress each other into producing more and better work.
Our friends at The Reader Berlin run a popular program of writing workshops and retreats. Then there are open reading series like the Fiction Canteen, Literally Speaking, and Whisky & Words. The English bookstores in town are constantly hosting events: St George’s in Prenzlauer Berg, Curious Fox in Neukölln, Shakespeare & Sons in Friedrichshain, and Another Country in Kreuzberg, to name just a few. And there are frequent book and magazine releases. Our own issue launch parties (coming up next on 19 May) always follow readings from the current issue with a long night of music, drinks, and dancing. Those things are important too.
Is there much cross-pollination between German- and English-speaking communities?
Language segregation is an unfortunate reality in a community built around words, and everything I just mentioned is firmly Anglophone. The much more expansive German scene, ranging from smoky and jokey Lesebühne evenings to philosophical panel discussions, is in many ways a parallel galaxy.
One exception to that disconnect is the writing-and-photography magazine STILL, which publishes original work in both languages and translations between them (including some of mine). Another outlier is the story of the Berlin-based British fiction writer Sharon Dodua Otoo, who recently switched to German and promptly won the very prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.
More often, it’s been easier for us internationals to team up. SAND took part in last year’s Stadtsprachen festival, dedicated to Berlin’s literature in many languages besides German, and will now be co-presenting a reading on 8 June with Parataxe, the event program that the festival spawned. The devotedly multilingual auslandSPRACHEN series in Prenzlauer Berg is also narrowing these gaps. And the Artichoke reading series, which features authors in different languages and prints translations in the program, is another valiant effort to reflect on the page (and onstage) the linguistic diversity we already experience in our daily lives.
The last issue of SAND published translations from German, Norwegian, Slovak and Vietnamese. How important is publishing translations for you?
For all its worldliness, English is still a limiting lens. Maybe I’m biased as a translator myself, but I’d be disappointed to print a whole issue of only English originals. Also, just being here has revealed some of what so many English-speakers are missing out on.
Despite our small circulation and modest funds, we’ve recently had the privilege to publish translations of pieces by Friederike Mayröcker, who has won so many high-profile prizes in Austria they’ve had to create more, and Dag Solstad, whom the New Yorker called “probably the most eminent Norwegian novelist” (forthcoming in Issue 15). We couldn’t be more honored to include such distinguished authors, but it’s shocking that the likes of us have access to the likes of them – just because their work exists outside the sealed dome of our supposedly “global” language.
What do you think of the concept of “world literature” – is it useful, or just an academic bandwagon?
The term “world literature,” especially when applied to the Global South, risks becoming patronizing, exoticizing or tokenizing like “world music.” If I’m annoyingly literal, we only have one world between us: Austen is world literature too.
It’s as though there’s a hierarchy of academic specificity. The farther culture gets from the Europeanized “comfort zone,” the more the finer details blur. By the time you reach overlooked, “marginal” territory, it’s all lumped together into miscellaneous Planet Earth.
What would it take to fill in the details?
The important thing is for us all to read widely. But that requires publishers to commission more translations and publish more widely. Which, in turn, requires institutional support, a receptive culture and a market of adventurous readers.
I think literary magazines make great nests for this chicken-and-egg problem – by exposing, in small doses, underrepresented writers that book publishers haven’t bet on yet.
You recently published a volume of translations of poems by Ron Winkler. Where did you discover his work and what drew you to it?
I originally found Ron’s work through a poet he was translating, Jeffrey McDaniel, who was teaching creative writing at my college eleven years ago. It was a byproduct of the exchange that is translation.
I enjoy Ron’s work for the same reason that Ron and I were both drawn to Jeff’s. His sense of humor, his fast-and-loose way with words, allows him to pry language apart and show us something beneath or inside it, something in the landscape that we wouldn’t have known to look at.
Which contemporary German poets should be better known in English?
Frankly, all contemporary German poets are unknown in English. I doubt that many serious readers of poetry in the US, where I’m from, could name a single living German poet.
That’s a real shame and completely related to the same chicken-and-egg problem – compounded by scarce money and the medium’s tendency to celebrate voices close to home. English publishing has some great ambassadors for poetry in German and other languages, all small and independent: Burning Deck Press (until their recent retirement), Shearsman Books (which published my Winkler translations), No Man’s Land, Two Lines, Words Without Borders, Asymptote, and Modern Poetry in Translation, just to name a few I’ve encountered or worked with.
But for now, these efforts remain exceptions to the rule: the overwhelming majority of poems never make it through customs. (Of those poets who have, at least somewhat, here is a sampling worth reading: Uljana Wolf, Ann Cotten, Hannes Bajohr and, again, Friederike Mayröcker. Uncoincidentally, the first three have personal ties to the US and the fourth is a living legend.)
What about English-speaking poets who ought to be better known in German?
Thanks in part to translations into German like Ron’s own and to ongoing, high-visibility institutions like the poesiefestival, the Internationaler Literaturpreis and Literarisches Colloquium Berlin, the situation is better in the Germanosphere. German letters are more outward-looking, and I’m often astounded at the American poets that German poets have read. But this is also a product of a lopsided cultural hierarchy that extends as far as sci-fi paperbacks. And could be related to Germany’s generally scarred self-image.
One big blind spot, I suppose, is right in front of German readers’ noses. There are poets writing in English, Turkish, Vietnamese and other languages right here, but international festivals and fellowships in this country often prefer to invite visiting writers from their “home countries” – who then fly away afterwards.
That’s an issue Stadtsprachen, auslandSprachen and now Parataxe have set out to remedy. Which reminds me: we should all be reading our very own superstar English-language novelist Nell Zink, even if she does live in the boondocks of Brandenburg.
Born in China in a small village, and after studying film in Beijing Xiaolu Guo went into exile to London. Her work is inspired by her biography, resistance, identity, home – she lives between different worlds and languages. Today she is one of the most appreciated and proliferated authors and film makers in Britain – in November she will be in Berlin at Lettrétage, presenting her works.
Julia Schiefer: You are a film maker, author of best-sellers, awarded for both your writing and movies. The introducing text for the upcoming event in Berlin says that by creating a multi-dimensional experience you (and three other writers) will „take literature to a new level“. What do you have in mind for 16 November?
Xiaolu Guo: Please, PR is different from reality as we know it.
But answering your question, I will probably present the body of my own work, both novels and films along with images for 15 mins. But let me add, I find it cruel that all your life is about spending years and years writing in solitude and then you are just given 15 mins for the public presentation.
Snapshot from the set for “UFO in her Eyes” (Fiction, 2011). The life of a Chinese woman changes abruptly after she believes she has just seen a UFO. The Film is a comment on Chinese society and a sharp portrait of chaotic contemporary times in China. Photo by Philippe Ciompi, Rao Hui, Klaus Maeck & Xiaolu Guo
Julia Schiefer: You come from a small fishing village from South China, studying and living in Beijing before you finally migrated to London. This, that means, your biography is in some or the other way reflected in your stories. And not only themes of identity and cultural differences arise in and ignite your text and movies, but since 2003 English become your second language to write in. Do you think that your stories would have been different if it wasn’t for getting settled in London and ultimately speaking English?
Xiaolu Guo: My essential stories will be the same, i do believe a personal life is beyond linguistic idenities…
But if you talk about the way of narrative or the stylistic difference in different cultures, yes, it is totally different as an author in Chinese or for an author in English. I am both, but I don’t want to be defined by my linguistic technicalities. If I had lived long enough in Germany or in France, I would write in German, or in French.
Julia Schiefer: You called Berlin your „second home“ to keep „contact to the continent“. Why do you feel the need to keep contact?
Xiaolu Guo: Before the Brexit, to be in Britain also meant to be in Europe, but now it is no longer. How sad. You know, I am not British. I am an immigrant. And I am a cosmopolitan by no-choice. The illusion of living in a world without strict boundaries and with general openness has always been our dream – and the principle of life.
Julia Schiefer: Do you go back to China from time to time?
Xiaolu Guo: Very much so.
Julia Schiefer: Are there any changes you recognise?
Xiolu Guo: Yes, as everyone knows: ‘China changes everyday in a big scale.’ BBC or any media outlet would say that and we all know it, intellectually or physically. I think the question should be: ‘What does not change in China?’
Once Upon a Time in the East (Trailer) - YouTube
Julia Schiefer: You were amongst the 44 authors that signed an open letter from PEN to Xi Jinping to call on him the release of activist, winner of the peace nobel prize and severely ill writer Liu Xiaobo. Now that Xiaobo has unfortunately died, the Chinese government faces massive criticism from the West. What do you think about it?
Xiaolu Guo: Tragic. As a Chinese proverb says: ‘Use an egg to attack a rock’, sums up the individual’s vulnerability in China under the current political environment.
Xiaolu Guo is a writer, academic and filmmaker. Her most notable novels are A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers(Orange Prize for Fiction nomination) andVillage of Stone as well as a short story collection, Lovers in the Age of Indifference. Her recent novel, I Am China, was longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Guo’s feature films include How is Your Fish Today (Sundance), UFO in her Eyes (TIFF), Once Upon a Time Proletarian (Venice) and She a Chinese, which won the Golden Leopard Award at 2009 Locarno Film Festival. Her memoir Once Upon a Time in the East was just out (Penguin Random House, 2017). She was a named as a 2013 Granta Best Young British Novelist and lives in Berlin and London.
Photo credits: Philippe Ciompi, Rao Hui, Klaus Maeck, Xiaolu Guo
A shout out to all our CROWDies: Over in Finland one of our partners, Nuoren Voiman Liitto, together with the city of Sysmä, is looking for eager young writers and translators, who would like to focus on their personal literary undertakings in a private and inspiring setting. Residency periods in Villa Sarkia are between one to three months.
The intention of Villa Sarkia is to provide an environment for young writers and translators to work in privacy and improve their professional skills, and also to increase the diversity of the cultural life of Sysmä. In accepting residency, each applicant agrees to one (1) performance at a nursery, school, library or other occasion organized by the city of Sysmä during their stay. Should their stay fall on the Summer months, residents are also encouraged to organize activities on behalf of Sysmä’s Kirjakyläpäivät, a local literary festival held in July. The residence is a wonderful addition to the versatile range of cultural activities in Sysmä. Other festivals include Sysmän Suvisoitto, a classical music festival; Uotinpäivät, the yearly town fair; and Pajularock, a local rock music festival.
How to Apply
To apply to be a resident at Villa Sarkia, send a free-form application to the office of Nuoren Voiman Liitto. The address is Nuoren Voiman Liitto, Fredrikinkatu 23 d 4, 00120 Helsinki Finland. Applicants are also welcome to send their application via email. Remember to specify the desired duration of your residency period! Nuoren Voiman Liitto will be in touch with all applicants personally once the selection for each term has been made.
Applying for the Spring period (1 Jan – 30 Jun) ends on 31 Oct. The selections are made by the committee of Nuoren Voiman Liitto in November.
Applying for the Autumn period (1 Aug – 31 Dec) ends on 29 April. The selections are made by the committee of Nuoren Voiman Liitto in May.
In July Villa Sarkia is primarily in the use of city of Sysmä.
For more information, such as where to send your application and which documents it should entail, head on over to the notice at Nuoren Voiman Liitto: Call for applications!
Nuoren Voimann Liitto, founded in 1921, is a Finnish non-profit literature organization, supporter of creative writers and organizer of literary events as well as publisher of the literary magazine Nuori Voima.
Speaking Volumes are producers of literary events that focus on international authors of color who perform their literature rather on stage – in very different fashion. Sharmilla and her partners have curated a great program with four authors from different directions of the world which they will be presenting in Berlin, 16 November at Lettrétage.
Julia Shimura: At Speaking Volumes, est. 2013, you are producers of literature who aim to bring international authors on stage in the UK. You have a network of 200 authors and more – most of them having an ethnic background, people of color. At what point did you and co-founder Sarah Sanders go independent? What was exactly the starting point?
Sharmilla Beezmohun: Speaking Volumes was actually founded in 2010. Sarah and I had met at International PEN, where we produced their annual five-day literature festival but, after two years, we decided that we wanted to organise our own events with a wider remit than the PEN Festival. From small beginnings, producing bespoke events for organisations such as The British Council, we then were awarded a grant in 2012 to work with the Southbank Centre to produce the UK tour of Poetry Parnassus, where one poet from each country in the world came to London to take part in events as part of the Cultural Olympiad. At this time Nick Chapman also joined Speaking Volumes and the three of us worked part-time to produce over 30 Poetry Parnassus UK events with 50+ poets over two weeks after the London events. It was a real baptism of fire! But it was also a huge success – and has been a real inspiration ever since for us, knowing that we can produce a wide variety of interesting events with a range of authors who may not be known to UK audiences, but who, via thoughtful curation and marketing, are able to draw in the crowds. From 2012, the three of us have continued to develop Speaking Volumes to what it is today.
Julia Shimura: “From page to screen, from words to music, from static books to active movement” – that’s what you promise in the announcing text for the upcoming event in Berlin in November. Your events usually exclusively focus on authors that rather perform their literature on stage in one way or the other. Why that approach? Does it have something to do with the ethnic background of the performance – and therefore by trend neglected authors?
Copyright: Usha Harte
Sharmilla Beezmohun: Yes, it does have a lot to do with ‘neglected’ authors. Our events are about putting writers in the spotlight who may not usually get the chance to be there, whether that is because of inequalities of race, gender or class, or because they are not seen as part of the literary establishment. We also work with authors from abroad who may not be everyday names for UK audiences. More recently, we have been taking UK writers to other countries too. In each case, we put a lot of time and effort into creating bespoke events which suit both the writes and the audiences. For one writer, this might mean giving a talk in a school or library; for another, it may be a multi-media performance at a theatre or literary – or music – festival.
One example of the broad range of work we do is the Ranting Poetry tours we put on in 2015-16. Ranting poetry is really working-class, politically charged work that speaks against economic, social and racial inequality, which emerged in the 1980s as a response to the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her policies (although there is a centuries-old tradition of anti-establishment poetry). We worked with many of the poets from the 1980s whose names might have been forgotten, as well as with younger writers whose work comes out of that genre, to create events which were held all over the place – in pubs, at festivals, at spoken word nights and even at The British Library! They proved immensely popular, particularly as they resonate with British audiences in today’s political climate.
Julia Shimura: I see, I think that is maybe in line with what we at CROWD like to call “literary activism”. Am I going wrong in assuming that this means something to you as well?
Sharmilla Beezmohun: Absolutely! That is at the centre of everything we do.
Julia Shimura: Haha, good. Let me ask about an event series by Speaking Volumes in April this year called nothing less than „Writers of the World Unite! – A Festival of Literature and Social Change“ featuring diverse events like Caribbean Literature to Russian (contemporary & revolutionary) Literature: What was your experience with this event?
Sharmilla Beezmohun: The Writers of the World Unite Festival was the brainchild of an events producer at Waterstones bookshop, Mark Banting. He asked us, along with Little Atoms (an independent arts organisation which explores rationalism and free thinking), to help produce this festival, which took the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution – and the whole idea of ‘revolution’ – as its starting point. Each of us curated 3-4 events as part of the whole festival. For Speaking Volumes, that meant we were able to be diverse and imaginative – from exploring the history of Caribbean literature in an event which also featured the then Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Mervyn Morris, to working with young up-and-coming poets who proclaimed their poetry to people browsing in the bookshop; from hosting an event on graphic novels to curating a ‘cabaret’ evening of music, comedy and literature. It was great fun to hear our writers, but we were also delighted to be able to see the events curated by our partners, which covered topics ranging from feminism to Russian poetry! It was also great to work with a range of partners who each brought their expertise to the table to create something really new for London.
Copyright: Speaking Volumes
Julia Shimura: Another political question that is of interest now: What do you think about Brexit as politically interested organisers? Does it play any role in your work?
Sharmilla Beezmohun: Brexit plays a huge role in our work, as does anything which creates division and potentially feeds hatred and intolerance – we actively work to break down all barriers and to counteract any ideologies that support such thinking. Pre-Brexit, the inequality and lack of diversity within the UK publishing industry (in terms of class, race and gender) had been brought to light through a series of official reports and investigations, which many of us who have worked in this sector have been highlighting for years. So our work is twofold, aiming to change/challenge attitudes both within the industry and in society more generally.
In terms of Europe, we believe we can help to overcome the inequalities and intolerance that Brexit is opening up through greater partnerships across the continent. This forms the heart of our Breaking Ground project, which was funded by Arts Council England prior to the Brexit vote, but which has never seemed more necessary. Through this, we’re visiting Finland, Spain, Portugal and Lithuania as well as Germany, building up networks and audiences for British writers of colour – and, we hope, creating lasting friendships and open doors as a result.
Julia Shimura: Please tell me more about your plans on the upcoming event in Berlin in November. I have to admit that it is a great line-up you timbered, everyone an acknowledged author: Chinese writer Xiaolu Guo, Malaysian-born performance poetry queen Francesca Beard, poet Rishi Dastidar and artist-poet Caleb Femi who has been featured by Tate Modern. Wow. How come that it is exactly these four?
Sharmilla Beezmohun: Thank you! It’s great to hear that these writers have already created excitement! For this upcoming Lettretage event, we wanted to be as diverse as possible to show that, contrary to the image of Britain touted by many pro-Brexit commentators, the UK is a tolerant and multicultural society which can foster great creativity. Also, we’ve worked with these writers before and know that they can all deliver interesting and thought-provoking performances beyond the usual literature reading, something which completely fits with Lettretage’s autumn Con_Text programme, so it’s really great to be able to work imaginatively around that theme.
As well as the live performances by these four writers, who are all at key stages in their careers, we’ll be featuring short films by other British writers of colour too, to add to the atmosphere of the whole night … watch this space!
Speaking Volumes was set up by Sharmilla Beezmohun and Sarah Sanders after leaving PEN International in May 2010.
As the Literary Events Team at PEN, we designed, curated and produced events in eight countries including Jamaica, Mexico, Austria and UAE, as well as the Free the Word festival at Shakespeare’s Globe, Southbank Centre and Free Word. Our approach to global programming necessitated working with many partners including Bloomberg, the EU Culture Programme, Prince Claus Foundation, Icorn, Emirates Literature Festival and many others.
Sharmilla Beezmohun has worked in publishing since 1994. She has worked for Virago, Heinemann’s African and Caribbean Writers Series, Thomas Telford Publishers and the George Padmore Institute amongst others. She has been Deputy Editor of Wasafiri since 2005 and in 2010 her first novel, Echoes of a Green Land, was published in translation in Spain as Ecos de la Tierra Verde.
Jaap Blonk is a sound poet that is a virtuoso in his art. He uses vocal sound production that scoops the whole range of what is possible to transcribe in international phonetic alphabet. This coming Monday he teams up with Tomomi Adachi in Berlin to do a public recording session.
For years now Jaap Blonk (Netherlands) is one of the head howlers of the genre called sound poetry, performing around the globe. He mastered early works of nonsemantic poetry in exercising them intensively. That according to himself started out as a playful engagement with Dada and Kurt Schwitters’ “Ursonate”. Unlinke the original by Schwitters or the more abrasive version by concrete poet Christian Bök, who is greatly admired by Jaap, his “Ursonate” is one of the smoothest that came to my ear. His newer interpretation from 2003 is lighthearted, cheerful even and at some point, funny.
Something I don’t usually associate with Dada and the Ursonate. The provocation of the movement lies in the fact that by abolishing a meaningful frame they reinstituted the exact system they wanted to attack, a system of fixed norms and ideals, to show how obsolete it was. When asking Jaap about any political message of his doing as an artist though, he says that he does not intend to give an explicit political message. His whole work is an implicit political message, he points out. Also, when he travelled with CROWD on the OMNIBUS tour last year crossing Europe from Helsinki to Cyprus, he didn’t make any political statements. Instead he preferred to confer his message by sound and craftsmanship in his playing with language. “The reception is also dependent on the context you are invited into”, Jaap said.
It’s the reader who fills up the ellipsis Jaap consciously sets in his work. And that is the turning point where it could be a more contemporary version of the Ursonate than one might think, more than a mere interpretation of a classical work of sound poetry. Jaaps performances are riddles for the listener. A nonsemantic practice that disables established meaning to be put together anew during the performance: from formal to formative. It becomes a more creational act, less than a provocative one. The listener needs to fill in and thus it becomes an inspirational act. Or in Jaap’s words: “good sound poetry is very direct communication without the obstacles of words”.
The Voice - Tomomi Adachi and Jaap Blonk Duo - Vimeo
Duet with Tomomi Adachi
Jaap names a lot of traditions and genres he draws from. Next to contemporary composition and mathematics, crossing sound poetry and free jazz is something that he repeatedly comes back to and continues to be an source for his artist vigor, And that is where his partner in crime Tomomi Adachi (Japan/Germany) is not very far away from Jaap – crossing borders between genres, being somewhere between performer and composer who engages in sound poetry and not-so-easy-to-categorize sound production. In fact, together they have appeared on stage several times before, in 2004 in Tokyo and some other occasions.
“It is easy to communicate with Tomomi on stage”, says Jaap, “it is very natural.” An interpreter of Schwitters Ursonate himself, Tomomi’s repertoire has a broad range. From sound poetry and composing music to performances, which he designs his own instruments for. Amongst his inventions is a shirt with infrared sensors that tracks Tomomi’s movements to build a unique soundscape together with Tomomi’s voice. This is one of his self-made physical interfaces and instruments alongside pieces that incorporate brainwave, artificial satellite, twitter texts and even paranormal phenomena.
Tomomi Adachi and Jaap Blonk 'Live Improvisation, Studio Niculescu, Berlin, Germany, 10th May 2015' - YouTube
When these two come together, it is an interesting mix of two virtuoses that push boundaries and break free to an intensity that needs to find its equal. We are proud to announce that one of our partners, Lettrétage, will host this two of a kind at their venue for the event “Asemic dialogues” in Berlin on 31st July 2017. This rare performance of the two in dialogue will be recorded for a CD, which is to be the 25th title on Jaap Blonk’s “Kontrans” label.
Jaap Blonk is a self-taught composer, performer and poet. He discovered his potential as a vocal performer in the 1970s, at first in reciting poetry and later on in improvisations and his own compositions. From around the year 2000 on Blonk started work with electronics, at first using samples of his own voice, then extending the field to include pure sound synthesis as well.
Besides working as a soloist, he collaborated with many musicians and ensembles in the field of contemporary and improvised music, like Maja Ratkje, Mats Gustafsson, Joan La Barbara, The Ex, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and the Ebony Band. He premiered several compositions by the German composer Carola Bauckholt, including a piece for voice and orchestra. A solo voice piece was commissioned by the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2002. On several occasions he collaborated with visual computer artist Golan Levin. Blonk’s work for radio and television includes several commissioned radio plays. He also makes larger-scale drawings of his scores, which are being exhibited. He has his own record label, Kontrans, featuring a total of 22 available releases so far. Other Blonk recordings appeared on Staalplaat, Basta, VICTO, Ecstatic Peace, My Dance The Skull, Monotype, Plant Migration Records, Elegua Records and Scumbag Relations.
His book/CD ‘Traces of Speech’ was published in 2012 by Hybriden-Verlag, Berlin. A comprehensive collection of his sound poetry came out as a book with 2 CDs in August, 2013, entitled “KLINKT”.
Adachi Tomomi (family name is ADACHI) is currently living in Berlin and Tokyo. He is a performer, composer, sound poet, installation artist, occasional theater director. He has performed contemporary music: vocal, live-electronics or performance works by John Cage, Fluxus and many more. He has performed with numerous musicians, dancers and film makers including Jaap Blonk, SAKATA Akira, ICHIYANAGI Toshi, OTOMO Yoshihide, ITOH Kim. He has presented his works worldwide at many kinds venues include Tate Modern, IRCAM/Centre Pompidou, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Akademie der Kuenste Berlin, Waker Art Center, STEIM, Experimental Intermedia, ZKM, The National Museum of Art Osaka, 21th Century Museum of Contemporary Art Kanazawa. He stayed in New York 2009-2010 as an Asian Cultural Council grantee. Also he was awarded the DAAD invited composer for Berlin 2012.
a very very nice literatureboomboom named text-world–world-text II with international authors rad local brainmovers will be there shrewd talking during the day and the full program from a to z in the evening – Forum STADTPARK is yet again hosting a CROWD Symposium in Graz! Streamed live on the 10th of June: www.stream.mur.at/forum
10:00 – 16:00 – Presentations & Discussion
20:00 – 22:30 – Readings & Performances
Tom Bresemann | Eduard Escoffets | Gundi Feyrer | Margret Kreidl | Barbi Markovic | Fiston Mwanza Mujila | Jörg Piringer | Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir | Clemens Schittko | Stefan Schmitzer | Christoph Szalay | trauma wien | Érica Zíngano | and many more
May through July 2016 Forum Stadtpark has together with three other European literary institutions (Lettrétage – Berlin, Nuoren Voiman Liitto – Helsinki, Ideogramma – Nikosia) organized a reading tour with more than 100 authors, going from Finland to Cyprus and tried to establish stronger bonds within the European independent literary scene as one of its main goals. The tour also stopped at Forum Stadtpark, where the Text-World–World-Text symposium was held. This year the second iteration of the symposium will take place. 15 international and local authors will discuss the role of literature in today’s society during the day and provide a deep look in the current trends in international, experimental literature in the evening.
International greats such as the Spanish sound poet Eduard Escoffets and the Icelandic literary performer Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir will meat the greats of the German-speaking space, among them Barbi Marković and the Austrian digital poet Jörg Piringer, all whilst examining the all-time relevant question what role the author should and can take in society. Especially interesting for the experimentally active authors will be the question of what role the new artistic forms and methods can take regarding the relation between literature and society. Can these new forms possibly create a new emancipatory and society-transforming potential? Can literature even be a medium for emancipation? How political can literature even be? Which forces govern literary production? What kind of strategies are there to surpass these forces and other limitations?
The presentations and discussions will be streamed live, as well as the readings and performances: