lyrikline blog

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” for World Poetry Day 2015

Posted in Autoren / poets by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

It has become a tradition over the past years that we use World Poetry Day on March 21 to focus on a specific aspect or topic of the poetry world. The situation of refugees has a sad currentness all over the world today and it affects also poets, in their personal life and in their writing.


photo: Department for International Development/K. Joseph

We asked a handful of “lyrikline-poets” who have a personal relation to this topic to answer a written interview to share their ideas and experiences. Each of the poets got a questionnaire and was
free to chose from a range of questions. The answers that reached us are remarkable, important, and moving and we would like to thank all the poets very much for openly speaking about their opinions and events in their life.

Thank you:
Ali Al-Jallawi
Ghayath Almadhoun
Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Mansur Rajih
Marie Silkeberg
Diana Vallejo

You can read each interview in an own blog article and we hope you’ll find them as enriching as we do. Have a good World Poetry Day and “Listen to the Poet!”

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 1 – Mansur Rajih

Posted in Autoren / poets by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Rajih_bigMansur Rajih was born in Yemen in 1958 where he was imprisoned for 15 years. He came to Stavanger City of Refuge in Norway in 1998. 


Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?

Mansur Rajih (MR): I came to Norway from Yemen after a lengthy international campaign. I was a prisoner of conscience. They arrested me for exercising my freedom of expression about life in a dictatorship And my activity in the field of struggle for democracy and human rights. I was in prison for 15 years.

LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?

MR: To create a poem is an act of beauty. An author must be – not a witness, but involved and active. I believe in seeing, acting and being alive through writing poetry. Life is full of forces that we must counteract.

LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?

MR: The poet’s task is (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 2 – Diana Vallejo

Posted in Autoren / poets, Diana Vallejo by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Diana Vallejo was born in Honduras in 1969. She moved to Europe.

Lyrikline Blog (LB): In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?

Diana Vallejo (DV): The poetry itself is a result of what you think, your reflections, your deep beliefs and fears, what you feel, those desires or hopes that we have. In certain social conditions this deep view of our humanity will have a certain line and shape, a map of what we are living or knowing about our surroundings, even the geography will be an influence in that poem. For me the written poem is the last result of our vulnerability like a human being. In my case it is not a task, but it is inevitable that I show or tell that special place or chronicle that lives through me again, so the action of publishing a poem in the paper converts me to some kind of witness of any field. For example I can say that I witness a person, or a bird or a country, the space, or the life, so yes it can be a task, but is not an obligation, you decide that. To write or not to write is very similar to … to be or not to be.

LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?

DV: Fear? I don’t think so, because they don’t care about human life and they really don’t understand the content of humanity. But shame, yes, they feel shame, (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 3 – Ali Al Jallawi

Posted in Ali Al Jallawi, Autoren / poets by lyrikline on 21. March 2015


Ali Al-Jallawi was born in Bahrain in 1975. He lives in Berlin today.

Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?

Ali Al-Jallawi (AA): I’m from Bahrain, and I left my country back in 2011, when I felt unsecure. When the Bahraini regime announced the emergency law in the state, the Saudi and the Emirati troops invaded the streets of Bahrain, they were responsible of suppressing the protests, arresting protesters and killing people on the streets, I broke away from home to live a life.

LB:In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?

AA: The poet is a mirror which reflects what is around him, reflects what he feels, what affected him, and what aspires him. He might be a witness, but without having the obligation of being one.

LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?

AA: The tyrannies are terrified of everything that is beautiful, anything that provokes freedom, or incites erosion of their area of influence. The real poem consciously or unconsciously exposes and uncovers these systems, with a direct or indirect language. The dictator loves poetry (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 4 – Marie Silkeberg

Posted in Autoren / poets, Marie Silkberg by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Marie Silkeberg was born in Copenhagen in 1961 and spent most of her life in Sweden, a country that has a special role in refugee politics.   marie-silkeberg_134850541


Lyrikline Blog (LB): Topics like conflict, flight and refuge found their way into your poetry and poetry film making during the last years. Why’s that? Was there a crucial experience or encounter that made you work on these topics?

Marie Silkeberg (MS): I belong to a generation who have lived more than half of our lives in the 20th century. When I look back, I usually describe my books as divided according to this break in time. The end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century brought with them enormous changes in the world and in the cultural field. For a long period I couldn’t write at all. The aesthetics from the former century in this new world seemed so worn out. So I started to turn outwards, using listening, as a method, to understand and grasp the sound of the world. The first poems I wrote consisted of very few words, and searched for changes and shifts in the language. Haroun Farockis film Bilder der Welt und Inschrift des Krieges meant a lot to me while writing this book. His way of relating European history to the Algerian for instance, as well as his way of interpreting photos from the past in the light of the present, and his way of combining elements to create new meaning. The method of listening, to write the sound of the world I continued. I got the change to travel a lot, and took it. The fact of my grandfather being a Russian immigrant in Sweden, and his parents Greek immigrants in Odessa became a trace, a quest, an enigma, especially after the death of my father, and I felt I had to embrace this nomadic inheritance. (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 5 – Ghayath Almadhoun

Posted in Autoren / poets, Ghayath Almadhoun by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Ghayath Almadhoun was born in Syria in 1979 and is a resident of Sweden today. 



Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?

Ghayath Almadhoun (GA): I came from Damascus, Syria, I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, my family was expelled from Ashkelon to Gaza by the Israeli army in 1948, and again expelled from Gaza in 1967. In 2008 I was invited to read my poetry in Stockholm, and I sought asylum. Why? Look what is happening in Syria and you will know what kind of dictatorships I fled from.

LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?

GA: I do not think we should overload poetry , at the same time poetry should not be isolated from the poet.

LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?

GA: Poetry will not change politics and society, poetry can change people, who are in turn changing politics and Society.

LB: In your view, is there a relation between the power of the words of a poet and that of a dictator, since they both work language?

GA: Language is a means used by everyone, Hitler spoke German, (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 6 – Sjón

Posted in Autoren / poets, ICORN, Sjón by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Sjón was born Iceland in 1962 and is an active supporter of the Cities of Refuge project ICORN. Thanks to his initiative, Reykjavík joined this international network of cities hosting persecuted writers.  sjon


Lyrikline Blog (LB): You are very active in the “Cities of refuge network” (ICORN). How come you made the issue of persecuted and exiled writers your topic?

Sjón (SJ): As a teenager I went to a talk given by the Somali author Nuruddin Farah about how it is to be a writer living under dictatorship. It had a strong impact on me. At the same time I was fascinated by Surrealism and through my readings about the movement and its poets in different countries I realised how provocative poetry can be, even in its most surreal or abstract form, and therefore how easily it can put the poets in opposition to authority, both political and religious. Then when the chance came I felt I had the obligation to practically do whatever I could to support persecuted writers. And that is what I have done through ICORN and PEN. Those of us who have the benefit of living in countries where free speech is allowed can show our true commitment to its values by fighting for those who are not so lucky.

LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time? 

SJ: The poet can never be anything but a witness to his time. All good poems chronicle the times their author’s lived in. This is because the poet lives at the crossroads of experience and expression.

LB: In your view, is there a relation between the power of the words of a poet and that of a dictator, since they both work with language? 

SJ: Poets keep the language in its most beautiful state, (more…)

Interviews on “poetry & refugees” – 7 – Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Posted in Autoren / poets, Fiston Mwanza Mujila by lyrikline on 21. March 2015

Fiston Mwanza Mujila was born in Congo in 1981 and moved to Austria without the need to flee his country. He gives us his view on living and writing in exile.


Photo: Gäel Turine4


Lyrikline Blog (LB): Where do you come from and why did you leave your country of origin?

Fiston Mwanza Mujila (FM): I was born in Lubumbashi, in Democratic Republic of Congo. I left my country for curiosity reasons. I always wanted to discover the world, to learn new languages, to expand my knowledge…

LB: What impact on society or politics can a poem have? Do oppressive regimes have to fear poetry?

FM: All dictatorships hate the truth. The truth is like a mirror. And dictatorships see in truth their own death. A poem conveys a vision of the world or any truth can frighten a totalitarian regime…

LB: In your view, is it the task of a poet also to be a chronicler or witness of his/her time?

FM: „My mouth will be the mouth of the misfortunes that have no mouth, my voice, freedom of those sagging in the dungeon of despair“ wrote Aimé Césaire in his magnificent book of a return to the homeland. In my view the poet can’t be insensible to the suffering of others… (more…)

Wisława Szymborska – Now on lyrikline!

Posted in Autoren / poets, our network partners, Wisława Szymborska by lyrikline on 1. February 2015

Wisława Szymborska (02.07.1923 – 01.02.2012)
Photo by Michał Rusinek

Today, the 1st of February three years ago, is the day Wisława Szymborska, the great Polish poet died in Kraków. On this occasion, we are incredibly happy to be able to present you some of her poems on lyrikline, in her remembrance.

She really was a “Mozart of Poetry”, as many call her – and a modest one! In 1996, she won the Nobel Prize, donated all of the Nobel Prize money to social projects and held one of the shortest thank speeches ever in Stockholm. She actually mockingly divided her life in a “pre-” and a “post-Nobel-catastrophe”-period, as all the attention she got after 1996 was more of a burden to her, who never seeked public attention. It is such warm and precise irony that also characterizes many of her poems. Apart from this ironic perspective, it is not easy to describe Szymborska’s poetry as a whole, as it is so diverse. In fact, each poem is unique in its own way and it is precisely that which makes them all so irresistible.

From today on, you can listen to her yourselves on lyrikline, thanks to the kind permission of the Wisława Szymborska Foundation. This is also a great address if you want to get some additional information and videos, etc. With the help of our network partners we were also able to add translations (Croatian, Belarusian, Estonian, Swedish and German) and more will follow soon, for sure!



This article was written by Carla Hegerl, lyrikline intern who helped preparing and editing Szymborska’s page on lyrikline. 


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Looking back on the relaunch day – a summary

We had been eagerly awaiting the “relaunch day” for months. As of 1 September, the new lyrikline is up and running!

Many people helped to bring the new site into life and many people came to celebrate with us and followed the relaunch event at c-base in Berlin or online via live stream. For all who couldn’t be there or want to relive the event here’s a little summary.

Ready? Go!

What ingredients does an event need that celebrates the new lyrikline? Next to having a look into what is new, there should be the elements that make lyrikline the living project that it is – poets, users, national partners, voices, languages, poems and translations. We tried to add a bit of it all and stir well…

The event was opened by our two charming presenters, Joel Scott of Australian partner organisation The Red Room Company and Per Bergström who is the Swedish partner with Rámus förlag. Many other local lyrikline partners
sent their video greetings or organised relaunch happenings in their countries


Heiko Strunk speaking about the new website (© gezett)

Heiko Strunk, who managed the project right from its start in 1999 and masterminded the website relaunch, gave us a showcase tour of the site and introduced all the new features.

So, what’s new?

To mention all the new things in detail would extend poetry length by bar. Best go and have a look! But here are some of the essentials…

Navigation languages:

Next to the five existing languages to navigate the site which were Arabic, English, French, German, and Slovenian there are four new languages: Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Start page:

The new site opens new ways to access the content of lyrikline so the users don’t get lost amidst the 900 poets, 8,000 poems, 11,000 translations or 60 languages of poetry. Next to thematic teasers, the start page offers a radio like theme stream, recommends poems or poets to discover and informs about new content. From the main menu you can now select poets not only from A-Z or by languages but also by countries and you can browse the site by poems also, e.g. many poems can be found by categories like humorous poetry or issues like alcohol & drugs and many more everyday life topics.

Search & Community:

Have a look at the new design of the poem page, lean back on your couch after you selected „listen to all poems“ by your favourite poet or find the needle in the hay by using the new search and its dozen refinement options. Moreover, you can remember content, create your own lists or explore what other users like by becoming a member of the community.

Whatever access point you start from to explore poetry on lyrikline you’ll be able to find all the six poets who performed at the relaunch event on stage in Berlin, be it Finnish poet Helena Sinervo or Norwegian Simen Hagerup, who were both published on the site during the live event, Els Moors from Belgium, Pedro Sena-Lino from Portugal or the German poets Steffen Popp and Jan Wagner. Since the latter is the most translated poet on lyrikline his poem champignons was read on stage in the languages of all the present poets.

Can you hear me?


google hangouts session: Andrej Hocevar waiting in Ljubljana

To give the lyrikline users the chance to follow the event via online streaming was a main aim since lyrikline is a web project and its main audience is sitting at a computer and not in front of a stage. Another idea was to establish live video connections to our partners and to poets in Nigeria, Russia and Slovenia during the event. In the end this did not go as well as we hoped and not nearly as well as it did when we ‘practised’ two weeks before, meeting in our first google hangouts session to check if we can all hear and see each other. At least we could hear Russian poet Linor Goralik read a poem in Moscow that night, but due to technical problems, the session sadly hardly worked and there was a lot of desperate asking „Can you hear me?“  This photo of a waiting Andrej Hocevar in Slovenia portraits the unlucky attempt. The more we’d like to thank the patient poets Linor Goralik in Russia and Benson Eluma in Nigeria and the partners Andrej Hocevar, Dmitry Kuzmin and Remi Raji who put a lot of time and effort in this. It’s a shame it did not really properly.

Messages from Space

Other connections to the outer world were more successful. It was fun to read what Julià Florit and Thomas Andersson, the partners from Catalonia and Sweden wrote while they took over our lyrikline facebook and twitter accounts to post some impressions of the event. The two of them and poet Els Moors also formed the jury that selected their favourite „space poems“ which were sent for the relaunch by users answering an open call. The space topic was inspired by the event venue, the c-base „space station“ in Berlin which is an association of IT activists and their headquarter was a great place for the lyrikline relaunch event.

literaturWERKstatt berlin

Left: the two presenters Joel and Per, right: Julià and Thomas connecting to the outer world (© gezett)

We’re happy that with the relaunch, this new era of lyrikline has finally started. It’ll certainly take a good while before all the little bugs left on the new site will be found and fixed. Continuously, more and more poems will be sorted into the categories, more new poets will be published and ideas for new start page teasers will have to be found. It is, as it was, work in progress so stay tuned and visit the new site every now and then.

Thank you all for coming to the relaunch event, for watching it online or for following the whereabouts of lyrikline!