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World Poetry Day 2023: Indigenous-Minority Poetry from China

Posted in China by lyrikline on 21. March 2023

In the one-hundred-year history of Chinese modern poetry, there have been many efforts made for a new breakthrough, such as using vernacular language, new formal writing, avant-garde writing, dialect writing, new nature poetry, etc. but nothing has been more successful (as a breakthrough) than Mother Tongue Writing and Bilingual Writing by ethnic minority poets in recent years. It embodies regional poetry 地方诗歌 vs. official poetry 官方诗歌, periphery vs. center, oral vs. written literature, local writing vs. Western influences, long narratives vs. short lyrical poems, eco-poetry vs. nature poetry, among many other literary and aesthetic dualities and conflicts. Aku Wuwu 阿库乌雾 is the first poet writing in Yi that has transformed ancient religious Yi rhyming epics into modern free verse since 1984; Shadette Gamarie 萨黛特·加马力 is the first Kyrgyz poet of modernist poetry since 1985; Bukun Ismahasan Islituan卜袞·伊斯瑪哈單·伊斯立端 wrote the first ballad in Bunun in 1977 and started writing poetry in Bunun in 1987; Gebu 哥布, the first Hani poet ever, publishing Chinese poetry since 1985 and modern Hani epics in Hani since 1989; A Su 阿苏, one of the few bilingual Xibe poets that blends avant-garde elements into folk poetry; Nie Le 聂勒, the first Wa poet ever, with bilingual publications since 1996; Luruo Diji 魯若迪基, the first Pumi poet, reciting his Pumi poems around the country; Kongno 坤努, one of the very few bilingual women poets in the Jingpho community; Wolfman 人狼格, one of the rare Naxi poets that speak Naxi and as a Naxi singer promoting Naxi through his bilingual lyrics; Li Hui 李輝 who has identified his ethnicity and mother tongue as Dônđäc (not one of the 56 officially identified ethnic groups in China) through field investigation and research work, to name just a few outstanding ones.

Ethnic minority poets have been continuously emerging in the last forty years but booming in recent five years. The Grand Exhibition of China’s Marginalized Ethnic Poetry (independently compiled by Fa Xing in 2009) was actually in Chinese. The 2010 edition of Ten Outstanding Minority Poets (Writer’s Union Press) was exclusively of minority poets writing in Chinese. The 2018 bilingual edition of Ten Outstanding Young Tibetan Poets (Sichuan People’s Press) was translated into Tibetan by ten professional translators. Soon after that, a large number of bilingual Tibetan, Uyghur and Yi poets appeared on the internet, changing the landscape of minority writing in China.

The fifty-five officially recognized minority groups consist of less than 9% of the total population in China but they occupy 64% of the land (mostly in the peripheral regions). 117 out of the 129 minority languages are classified as endangered languages. It was due to the awareness of the endangered status that many poets such as Aku Wuwu, Gebu, A Su, Nie Le, Luruo Diji and Kongno started Mother Tongue Recitation and Mother Tongue Writing to save their ethnic languages. Many other poets have made various efforts to promote their literature and cultures: Shadette Gamarie has compiled an anthology of literature from Kyrgyz and translated authors of several languages such as Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Uyghur into Chinese; Samarkand 撒玛尔罕 has compiled an anthology of poetry from Salar nationality; Ha Sen 哈森 has translated many Mongolian poets into Chinese and Aynur Mawltbek 阿依努尔·毛吾力提 from Kazakh into Chinese; Wolfman as a popular singer sings bilingual songs to promote Naxi; Li Hui, as a molecular anthropologist, has written enthusiastically about Dônđäc as an ethnic minority speech rather than a Shanghai dialect; Bukun Ismahasan Islituan from Taiwan has been tirelessly promoting indigenous Bunun by writing and performing his bilingual poetry in Bunun and Chinese; and Puchi Daling 普驰达岭, who is familiar with classical Yi and modern Yi as well as classical Chinese poetry and modern poetry in general, has devoted much of his time introducing Yi literature and doing research work in addition to his literary career as a prolific poet and scholar of Tibeto-Burman studies. 

History of China’s literature has been the history of Han Chinese literature. There has been a separate history of ethnic minority literature in China. The grand thirty volumes of One Hundred Year Chinese Poetry (Changjiang Wenyi Press, 2013) included less than ten minority poets (Shen Congwen, Niu Han, Xi Murong, Jidi Majia, Aku Wuwu, He Xiaozhu, Na Ye and Meng Yifei). Poets such as Gebu, Nie Le and Luruo Diji who have received the Junma (Gallant Horse) Literature Awards 骏马奖, the highest award for minority writers in China, are very often neglected by “mainstream” poetry circles.

Some of these minority poets, bilingual or monolingual, have become a vital part of contemporary Chinese poetry. He Zhong 贺中 was a member of the Lhasa School of Literature from the 1980s, a term used by critics in the subsequent years. Meng Yifei 梦亦非 is a representative of the post-70s generation and a major promoter of regional poetry as opposed to the central official poetry. Feng Na and Zhong Xiuhua are new voices of women’s writing in China. But many others have been sheltered or underestimated, such as Dilmurat Talat 狄力木拉提•泰来提, Gebu, A Su, Anaer 阿娜尔, Aynur Mawltbek, Na Sa 那萨, Xi Chu 西楚, Yungdrung Gyurmè 永中久美, Jike Bu 吉克·布, Tenzin Pelmo 丹增白姆, etc. which is part of my motivations to conduct this project.

—Excerpts from “The Other Mother Tongues and Minority Writing in China” by Ming Di, a chapter from Mother Tongues and Other Tongues: Creating and Translating Sinophone Poetry, edited by Martina Codeluppi and Simona Gallo, forthcoming.

Authors in the order of appearance in the video collection “World Poetry Day 2023—Indigenous-Minority Poets from China 世界詩歌日 多民族詩人母語朗誦”:

1. Bayin Hehe (b.1985, Machu nationality from Jilin)
2. Nimei Nami (b.1974, Naxi nationality from Yunnan)
3. Qin Shuxia (b.2000, Zhuang nationality from Guangxi)
4. Lama Itzot (b.1987, Nuosu Yi from Sichuan)
5. Li Xingqing (b.1993, Li nationality from Hainan Island)
6. Hai Yan (Miao-Hmong from Guizhou)
7. Feng Maojun (b.1974, Lisu nationality from Yunnan)
8. Aili Munuo (b.1970, De’ang nationality from Yunnan)
9. Aynur Abdukerim (b.1975, Uyghur from Xinjiang)
10. Suolang Ciren (b.1992, Luoba from Tibet)
11. Wang Mei (b.1973. Tai nationality from Yunnan)
12. Zhan Jiayu (b.1982, Dong from southern Guizhou)
13. Pan Nianying (b.1963, Dong from northern Guizhou)
14. Tong Qi (b.1993, Yi nationality from Yunnan)
15. Huang Xiufeng (b.1974, Pan Yao from Guangxi)
16. Shung Shuang (Landian Yao from Yunnan)

Compiled by: Poetry Across the Oceans
Video editing: Xi Chu, Ming Di, Jiwu Wuxiamo
English Translation: Poetry Across the Oceans
Partially supported by DJS Art Foundation, a partner of Lyrikline

Another video collection of “32 Ethnic Minority Poets from China” for the International Mother Language Day 2022-2023

World Poetry Day 2022 – May these be words of hope, faith and comfort

Einen Waffenstillstand, einen Waffenstillstand, nur um die
Absicht zu prüfen,
Es kann ja sein, daß ein Stück Frieden in die Seele sickert
Und wir mit Poesie um die Liebe der Dinge wetteifern.
Mahmud Darwisch, Belagerungszustand (original: ar, translation: de)

my mother red with laughter, my father cupping
his left hand under his armpit, doing the dance
of old Ukraine, the sound of his skin half drum,
half fart, the world at least a meadow,
the three of us whirling and singing, the three of us
screaming and falling, as if we were dying,
as if we could never stop – in 1945 –
Gerald Stern, The Dancing (original: en, translations: de, he)

I survived somehow, and now we have peace (…) again.
I have no idea what I will do next.
Sándor Tatár, „War and Peace”
(original: hu, translations: de, en, dk, is, he, fr, nl, ka, ro, it)

gesagtes und leiden stumm
in zwei worten genannt
in drei schmerzen gebannt
und lasst uns die herzen befreien
befreit das leiden
Tanella Boni, [parole et souffrance muettes] (original: fr, translation: de)

And this must be
a sort of peace:
a botanical secret
of light
Ana Luísa Amaral, Uma botânica da paz: visitação
(original: pt, translations: de, en)

Schmerz wirkt unterschiedlich
in verschiedenen Orten
Zum Beispiel
Ich habe nur Kopfschmerzen
Du hast verloren nur eine Hand
Er alles
Mustapha Samady, دردستان – Schmerzland (original: fa, translation: de)

Silbern ist der Wind, der zu jeder Stunde des Vergessens drei
zusätzliche Stunden des Vergessens hinzufügt, die sich immerfort
in der Gegenwart ereignen;
Silbern ist der Flug der Möwe, die das Gesagte und das Verschwiegene zusammennäht
und einen dauerhaften Waffenstillstand mit dem Läuten der Abendglocken stiftet
Uroš Zupan, Srebro (original: sl, translation: de)

after the war,
what do we do
with the guns
and the machetes?
Natalia Molebatsi, after the war
(original: en, translation: de)

Let someone say on your behalf
that those towers don’t tumble down
Nothing happens to them
Those people never end
Tushar Dhawal, Papa, look (original: hi, translations: en, de)

Meine Müh im Heer –
Eine Kreisumkehr.
Der Bruder mein
War verkehrt der Feind.
Olga Martynova, Tschwirik im Krieg (original: ru, translations: de, sr, sv)

und ich frage: wer ist dieser ruhm
und was macht er mit den herzen
er schenkt der sinnlosigkeit ringsum ein wenig sinn
als wäre doch nicht alles umsonst
Volha Hapeyeva, schwarzer apfelbaum (original: hi, translations: en, de)

The old butterfly flaps its slender wings through the smoky air
exhausted and breathless
he flies over the ashy battlefields 
and lays his powdery, golden trail 
on the wailing grounds
he breathes in all the unborn flowers
and he lives.
Ketty Nivyabandi, Hope (original: en, translation: de)

laß uns das gespräch wieder aufnehmen
nach langem erzwungenem schweigen
nachdem du deine geschöpfe denaturiert hast
in auschwitz
in hiroshima
in halabtsche
in srebrenica
gehst du nun auf die knie vor den opfern?
und vor den tätern auch?
und glaubst du
daß wir die Versuchung zu einer noch radikaleren
                                                           liebe überstehen
ohne dein wort?
SAID, Psalmen (Auszug) (original: de, translations: en, fr)

is to renounce voluntarily
the legitimate claim to vengeance.

ist freiwilliger Verzicht
auf das legitime Recht
der Rache.
Odile Arqué, Perdonar (original: ca, translation: de, en)

Ich hab Leben gewählt
mit dem ganzen Ballast
die Füße sind schwer
es versagt mir die Stimme
Ilana Shmueli, [Neige dich zu deinen Toten / Ich hab Leben gewählt]
(original: de, translations: ar, fr)

stilles leben, Stilleben; die farbwelt dieser kompositon wird von
mattgelb dominiert; die blutorangen in der kristallschale
erinnern an kriegsveteranen bei tagesanbruch im schwimmbad,
dessen panoramafenster voller spritzer und fingerabdrücke
sind: gefilterter unreiner morgenschein, altgold; die komposition
verewigt den frieden, den die welt geben kann
Risto Oikarinen, [hiljaiselo, Stilleben…]  (original: fi, translations: de, sv)

World Poetry Day and an Open Call from Belgium

To celebrate World Poetry Day on March 21, Lyrikline publishes six fine new poets from around the world between March 19-21 (find all their names below).

Laurence Vielle, photo © Isaora Sanna

Laurence Vielle

One of them is Wallonian poet Laurence Vielle, the first poet contributed by our new Wallonian network partner L’Arbre de Diane.

Laurence was the Belgian National Poet until Els Moors took over in January of 2018. Now Els Moors has started an open call in connection with World Poetry Day:

Adopt your city with a poem

On the 21st of March, World Poetry Day, the National Poet of Belgium, Els Moors, invites all people worldwide to gather their most beautiful odes and elegies on their cities (/ countries / states / …) and make them public. In times of gentrification, mass tourism and worldwide migration we are craving for lonely flâneurs and notorious wanderers who want to lay bare the mysterious heart of their cities. Are you still in love with the city you were born in? Were you pushed on by love, or obliged to leave your hearth and home? Adopt your city by writing an urban elegy and take part in the writing of the most exotic Lonely Planet at this time: The adopted cities.

Would you like to contribute to this special worldwide anthology, and motivate others to join?
Then join this action in a few steps:
1. Publish your own poem on our page starting the 21st of March 2018:
2. Post your poem on all your possible (social) media and encourage fellow citizens to adopt a city with a poem and to join the action. Everybody can share their city-poem on our website. On Facebook, please use #adoptedcities so we can follow and share your posts.
3. Enjoy an easily accessible and interactive online anthology, a playful way to motivate people to read and write poetry! 

Els Moors, private photo

Els Moors

Read the poems of Els Moors, “Dichter des Vaderlands” of Belgium here. Read the city poem of her predecessor and ambassador Laurence Vielle here.
We would – very much – like people from all over the world to take just a minute to think about poetry (and all its modern interpretations) and to write even a short piece of poetry. Let’s make a tribute to poetry and to our world together!

We hope that many people out there follow Els Moors’ call to post poems. We’d also like to invite you to discover the other new voices that we published on the occasion of this year’s World Poetry Day, next to Laurence Vielle:
M. NourbeSe Philip (Tobago/Canada)
Sukrita Paul Kumar
Benjamín Chávez (Bolivia)
Ketty Nivyabandi (Burundi/Canada) and
Yoko Tawada (Japan/Germany).

Happy World Poetry Day!


Nigeria celebrates Niyi Osundare’s 70th birthday on World Poetry Day

Posted in Niyi Osundare, our network partners, Remi Raji by lyrikline on 21. March 2017

Niyi Osundare is Nigeria’s most acclaimed poet. He turned 70 only some day ago, on March 12th. In his home Nigeria he is honoured with an impressive event organised on World Poetry Day in Ibadan. On the occasion of his 70th birthday and World Poetry Day we are proud to present Niyi Osundare on lyrikline where you can now listen to him read seven of his poems.

Remi Raji of Diktaris, the Nigerian partner organisation of lyrikline, pays tribute to this great Nigerian poet.


Niyi Osundare: Gardener and Warrior of Light at 70

by Remi Raji

The gardener of redolent words, the warrior of light, is three scores and ten years on Mother Earth. Niyi Osundare is undoubtedly one of the most enduring voices of Nigerian second generation poetry.

Niyi Osundare, photo: gezett

Fire in the bushels of barbarians, scourge of tyrants and traitors, the predictable voice against the conclaves of corruption, he of million metaphors, neither tired nor tiring of speaking truth to crookedness in high and low places.

Born on March 12, 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria, Niyi Osundare has achieved solid fame through hard work, diligence, and a dogged commitment to creativity and intellectual distinction. Grand and multiple award winner for his numerous books of poetry, he is always in great and real elements in the classroom, as trainer and high priest of knowledge. I am certainly not the only witness to Osundare’s unique teaching style…being one in a long list of his Creative Writing students at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

Ten years ago, on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, I penned a tribute about Osundare’s philosophy of art:

Chinua Achebe teaches us a masterful and disarming narrative style filled with both lessons and puzzles; Soyinka bequeaths to us a large canvass of artistic genius and political daring; and Okigbo, the combination of the puzzle and the daring that the real author is all about, provides us with the limitless possibilities of the Muse, the true excitement of imagination. In his poetry and essays, Osundare, the scion of Osun captures the vagaries of the African dilemma, with the deep emotive insight of a revolutionary artist. Always, he queries the “jangling discord” of the Nigerian nation in a harmonious language made for intimacy and intelligibility; he draws consistently on the heritage of Yoruba verbal elegance which he transforms onto the graphic and permanent intelligence of the written word; for him the page is only a tangible site for the performance of the poetic text, and the voice, with the atmosphere of delivery, is the thing. To read a poem sitting, or standing like Sigidi, he insists, is to commit an abominable act, a disservice to the pageant of the enchanted word!
Indeed, Niyi Osundare is the poet of the alter-native tradition par excellence.

Global Nigerian. African Patriot. Engaging Poet. Three odd things to be at the same time, at all time, Niyi Osundare continues a healthy dialogue with his country and continent, without apologies, without compromise and without anxieties. Master of romantic and satirical verses, his most recent poem to the Nigerian/African public sphere is indeed both topical as it is provocative: “My Lord, Tell Me Where to Keep Your Bribe”.

We celebrate Olosunta’s child, Katrina’s survivor, we celebrate decades of unrelenting writing and activism. Many hearty cheers to the author of Songs of the Marketplace, Village Voices, A Nib in the Pond, The Eye of the Earth, Moonsongs, Songs of the Season, Waiting Laughters, The Word is an Egg, Tender Moments, Random Blues…etc.
May many more celebrations come and go like the rains in the predictable hour.

World Poetry Day Event
A special interactive event on World Poetry Day (Tuesday, March 21, 2017) is dedicated to Niyi Osundare’s ideas and poetry under the title “Poetry, Politics and Society.”

Participants include Nelson Fashina (author of Gods at the Harvest, 1998), Ademola Dasylva (ANA Poetry Prize winner, 2006), Tade Ipadeola (NLNG Poetry Prize winner, 2013), Jumoke Verissimo (Creative Coordinator of Ibadan Poetry Foundation, and author of I am Memory, 2008 and The Birth of Illusion, 2015) and Matthew Umukoro (author of Dross of Gold, 2002).
Also scheduled to perform at the event is a list of emerging and engaging Nigerian poets like Funmi Aluko, Ibukun Adeeko (Winner of the Babishai Poetry Prize, 2015), Charles Akinsete, Ndubuisi Martins Aniemeka, Bartholomew Akpah, Sola Ojikutu, Oladele Noah, Oredola Ibrahim, Theo Edokpayi, Danladi Sunday, O’Busayor, Saddiq Dzukogi (ANA Teen Author Prize winner & Brunel International African Poetry Prize, 2017 Shortlist) and Rasaq Malik (Brunel International African Poetry Prize, 2017 Shortlist).

The venue of the programme is the Faculty of Arts Quadrangle, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
Time: 18.00 – 20.00.

This is an Open Event.

Event Coordination:
Supported by:


Remi Raji is a Nigerian poet, scholar, literary organiser, and cultural activsit. He is a member of the lyrikline partner network with Diktaris and his poems can be read and listened to on lyrikline.


Poetry and Performance – Overview

Posted in Uncategorized by lyrikline on 24. March 2016

poetry and p

The celebration of World Poetry Day is over – but the playlists and the postings about Poetry and Performance are still online. This is an overview of all interviews, videos and texts.


(1) Approaching UNESCO World Poetry Day

Essay about  performance and expectations towards a performative event

lyrikline playlist live performances

(2) Reading and Recording

Video of a recording session and a reading by Carolin Callies [German with English summary]

lyrikline playlist studio hightlights

(3) No performance without an audience

Interview with scientist and poet Anja Utler about the reception of spoken poetry

lyrikline playlist talking to the audience

(4) Presenting a poem in different ways

Interview with Gerhard Falkner about artistic cooperation [German video with English summary]

lyrikline playlist music performances

(5) Voices in action

Videos of three artists in the field of spoken word, rap and slam poetry

lyrikline playlist spoken word performer

(6) Sound out loud!

Interview with Pierre Guéry, Eirikur Örn Norddahl and Jaap Blonk about their performative experiences

lyrikline playlist sound poetry

(7) World Poetry Day

Celebration of World Poetry Day with performances of Kurt Schwitters, Jaap Blonk and Anat Pick

Poesie und Performance – Eine Übersicht

Posted in Uncategorized by lyrikline on 24. March 2016

poetry and p

Die Festivitäten zum Welttag der Poesie sind vorbei – doch die deutschen und englischen  Beiträge und Playlists zu Poesie und Performance sind weiterhin online. Eine Übersicht über die einzelnen Texte, Videos und Interviews erleichtert den Zugriff:


(1) Welttag der Poesie auf lyrikline

Ein einleitendes Essay erläutert eine Verwendung des Performance-Begriffs, ein kurzer Audio-Betrag gibt Einblicke in die Erwartungen an eine Performance von Seiten des Publikums.

lyrikline playlist live performances

(2) Lesungen und O-Töne

Die Dichterin Carolin Callies wird filmisch bei einer Aufnahmesituation im Tonstudio der lyrikline und bei einer Lesung in der Literaturwerkstatt Berlin begleitet. Unterschiedliche Arten des Lyrikverständnisses werden aufgegriffen.

lyrikline playlist studio highlights

 (3) Keine Performance ohne Rezipierende

In einem ausführlichen Interview gibt die Wissenschaftlerin und Dichterin Anja Utler Auskunft über ihr Forschungsgebiet “Wahrnehmung von gesprochenen Gedichten”.

lyrikline playlist talking to the audience

(4) Viele Arten ein Gedicht zum Sprechen zu bringen

Ein Video zeigt den Dichter Gerhard Falkner im Interview mit lyrikline über seine Kooperationen mit anderen Künstlern und den Performances, die dabei entstehen.

lyrikline playlist music performances

(5) Voices in action

Drei Videos mit TJ Dema, Sharrif Simmons und Maud Vanhauwaert  zeigen die kraftvolle Wirkung von Gedichten im Umfeld von Spoken Word, Rap und Slam Poetry.

lyrikline playlist spoken word performer

(6) Sound out loud!

In einem englischen Interview berichten die Soundpoeten Pierre Guéry, Eirikur Örn Norddahl und Jaap Blonk von ihren performativen Ansprüchen und Erlebnissen.

lyrikline playlist sound poetry

(7) World Poetry Day

Wir feiern den Welttag der Poesie mit drei großartigen Performances von Kurt Schwitters, Jaap Blonk und Anat Pick.

Poetry and Performance (7) – World Poetry Day

Posted in Anat Pick, Jaap Blonk, Kurt Schwitters by lyrikline on 21. March 2016

poetry and p klien


Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Welttag der Poesie!

An alle Dichter und Denkerinnen, Liebhaber, Selberschreiber und alle, die ohne Poesie nicht aus dem Haus gehen wollen. Mit dem Ende einer  Woche voll Poesie und Performance kehren wir zum gemeinsamen Urgrund zurück und feiern mit drei bahnbrechenden Poesie-Performances  das Aufkommen und die Vielfalt poetischer Performancekonzepte, ihre Weiterentwicklung, ihre internationale Sprengkraft und ihr DADA-Potenzial. Hier sind Ausschnitte aus Kurt Schwitters Ursonate gelesen vom Autor, Jaap Blonks Performance Ursonography der Schwitterschen Ursonate und Anat Picks Part 1 der tongueTrum (N’ur so nata).


World Poetry Day Congratulations!

To all poets, performers and poetry lovers! This is our final posting in a week full of poetry and performance recalling the very basis of all performative poetry: With Kurt Schwitters´ Ursonate (primordial sonata or sonata in primordial sounds), Jaap Blonk and Golan Levin performing Ursonography and Anat Picks Part 1 tongueTrum (N’ur so nata) we want to celebrate poetic performances and their further development, their international impact and their dada potential.



Listen to the whole piece performed by his son Ernst Schwitters at/ die gesamte Sonate gesprochen von seinem Sohn Ernst Schwitters auf:  Kurt Schwitters Ursonate UBU

Noch mehr Versionen von Jaap Blonk auf/ more versions at Jaap Blonk Ursonate UBU

Pick - 20100610-2215449

Anat Pick foto: gezett


tongueTrum (N’ur so nata) Pt. I by/von Anat Pick (Textvorlage/script at/auf lyrikline)


Auf ein neues Jahr voller Stimmen, Laute und Gedichte, die man hören muss!

To another wonderful year of sounds, voices and poems that want to be heard!

Anat Pick and

Jaap Blonk at lyrikline


Poetry and Performance (6) – Sound out loud!

Posted in Eirikur Örn Norddahl, Jaap Blonk, Pierre Guéry by lyrikline on 20. March 2016

poetry and p klien

Performativity is a central characteristic of sound poetry: Poetry and sound become one. Written notices are only of supportive function and help to realize the poems as sounds. Voice and body of the performers are part of the event that can be a bodily experience for both performers and audience. Sound poets are known for their extreme dedication. They scream and whisper fighting or praising the word and its acclaimed meaning.

[a playlist for World Poetry Day 2016] sound poetry

We asked sound poetry-performers Pierre Guéry, Jaap Blonk and Eirikur Örn Norddahl about their personal artistic view on performance and their experiences with it. And once more we find out, that the term performance has a wide range that differs a lot in both its theoretical understanding and its – performance!


Bei Lautpoesie steht die Performativität der Gedichte unangefochten im Mittelpunkt: Laut und Gedicht sind eins, schriftliche Notizen dienen meist nur als behelfsmäßige Gedächtnisstützen und stehen als solche hinter der Realisierung des Gedichts im Laut zurück. Stimme und Körper der Performenden sind unmittelbar mit dem Ereignis verknüpft, das auch für das Publikum zu einer körperlichen Erfahrung werden kann. Lautpoetinnen und -poeten sind für ihre außerordentliche Präsenz, ihre Lust am Experimentieren und ihre unübertroffenen Hingabe auf der Bühne bekannt.

[a playlist for World Poetry Day 2016] sound poetry

Pierre Guéry, Jaap Blonk und Eirikur Örn Norddahl beantworten für lyrikline Fragen zu ihrem Verständnis von Performance und berichten aus ihrem Erfahrungsschatz. Die englischen Interviews werden durch Videos ergänzt, die Guéry und Norddahl in Aktion zeigen. Und Blonk? Den zeigen wir am Welttag der Poesie.



Blonk (foto: gezett), Norddahl and Guéry

What is a performance – what is not performative?

Pierre Guéry: Concerning poetry, a performance is not a simple reading. Above all it is the whole poet’s body into space creating an energetic contact with the audience. With a text of course, but with a type of text that can involve the entire being of the poet: what he means with words, for sure, but also what his body suggests, what his voice impacts. For a performance the poet cannot remain into distance with his creation – whether he’s alone or with other artists on stage. Basically, he’s got to recall the specific pulse that was inside him while writing and give it back to the audience in its nudity. He’s got to have a strong will for transmitting and sharing this pulse sincerely, not being afraid by his fragility or violence. The audience knows very well whether this happens or not, and there is no possible cheating.

What is not performative: a simple reading with a great musician or a nice video! This is not enough to call it performance, though it is very current. Poetry performance (especially what is called sound poetry), as well, is not just yelling words like a mad person! A poetic performance is not just melting different arts to give the poem a beautiful suit.


Jaap Blonk: For myself it is 100% clear if I am performing or not. It’s a matter of turning a switch from 0 to 1 and back.

In the case of most poets I have seen on stage, supposedly performing, it wasn’t so clear if they were actually doing a performance or not.

Eirikur Örn Norddahl: My idea of performance is very much connected to the idea of “live” – a recording of a performance is closer to being text, which is then only performative at the moment of writing.

How important is loudness to your work?

Pierre Guéry: Loudness is just a help and can be fun. I use it quite often and create some effects that amplify what my voice wants to give. It is only a tool in my work and I never base on it because I want to keep a certain nudity. I do not want to count on technology to find something that I don’t possess myself.

Jaap Blonk: I assume by loudness you mean volume (dynamics in musical terms). This is of eminent importance for my work. I give it the utmost care in all gradations.

Eirikur Örn Norddahl: There needs to be a framed spectrum – the spectrum doesn’t have be great, but there needs to be an upper and lower border within which the artwork functions, for there to also be a breaking point, a point where the border is pierced and/or crumbles. It can never be so loud that you cannot – through effort – still make it a little bit louder if needed. I have also often thought of the connection between loudness and power as being interesting, not only because we often see the correlation – whether it be shouting police dogs or bombs – but because loudness is also a mask for the powerless, just as silence is a mask for the powerful.


What must the audience provide?

Pierre Guéry: There is no « must »! The audience provides or not, and it provides what it provides if the poet himself provides something strong – otherwise no feedback!

Jaap Blonk: There’s nothing the audience ‘must’ provide. However, I very much appreciate it if their interest goes deeper than just attending a performance, and also stretches toward the permanent objects of art, such as books and recordings. 

Eirikur Örn Norddahl: Presence. Humanity.


What was the greatest thing that happened to you onstage?

Pierre Guéry: So many great things happen all the time! The greatest thing is probably, most often, what is unexpectable – when the feedback is a total surprise (and consequently gives an unknown and new meaning to the piece that is performed).

Also when work involves another artist and when both poet and artist touch a state of grace by « making love to eachother » onstage – I mean find their own soul in the other one’s soul.

Jaap Blonk: Crossing what I had so far considered ‘the border of madness’, and finding out that the audience was not embarrassed at all, but touched by a genuine artistic utterance.

Eirikur Örn Norddahl: I don’t know if it can be considered great, but I once for a moment thought I had killed the great Jacques Roubaud with my poetry. He was sitting at the front at a show at the Days of poetry and wine in Ptuj, Slovenia, on a shaky stump of wood. When I started my show – which consisted of all sorts of weird noises and conceptually and politically motivated wisecracks – he started laughing. And he just kept laughing. When I broke into a ten minute shoutfest consisting of 17th century Icelandic zaum-nonsense he laughed so hard that he fell of his tree stump, stumbling on to the sidewalk. He was 80 at the time and half the festival panicked and got up to see if he was OK, and I still had eight minutes left of my shoutfest, looking out the corner of my eye feeling very insecure as to whether or not I had accidentally murdered one of my idols and whether or not that meant I should stop. (He was fine; and I didn’t stop).

I once had a whole platoon of finnish teen girls and horse enthusiasts chant along with one of my poems with great energy, I have had children go mad with joy, running around glowing – but I’ve also had people boo me, throw stuff at me, I have had people cry, shout, and one person even had an epileptic fit when I was on stage. And then I hadn’t even started reading yet.


Jaap Blonk,

Eirikur Örn Norddahl

and Pierre Guéry on lyrikline


Poetry and Performance (5) – Voices in action

Posted in Maud Vanhauwaert, Sharrif Simmons, TJ Dema by lyrikline on 19. March 2016

poetry and p klien

Spoken Word, Rap, and Slam Poetry: Those could be first things that come to mind when we think about poetry and performance. Voices, words and poems are loud and powerful when they fight for justice and against repression. But the words always also stand and fight for themselves, for the space they need, their language and the connections they achieve. In TV-Shows and concert halls performers like Ursula Rucker, Saul Williams, L-ness and others give rise to the power with which a poem constitutes and forms a reality.

[a playlist for World Poetry Day 2016] spoken word performer

The selected videos demonstrate how the established surroundings of poems and their categories can be challenged to find new ways of reaching an audience. TJ Dema postulates a word in action, Sharrif Simmons meets other artists in the streets of a foreign country, Maud Vanhauwaert performs her poem in a quotidian surrounding.


Spoken Word, Rap, Slam Poetry: So könnte eine spontane Assoziationskette aussehen, die an Poesie und Performance anknüpft. Hier treten, Stimme, Wort und Gedicht unüberhörbar in Aktion. Oft tritt das Wort für eine gerechtere Gesellschaft ein und gegen Repression. Dabei steht und kämpft es immer auch für sich und für den Raum, den es greift, für die Sprache, die es spricht, die Verbindung, die es schafft. Performerinnen wie Ursula Rucker, Saul Williams, L-ness und andere setzen auf die realitätserzeugende Wirkung der Wörter und demonstrieren in vollen Konzertsälen, in Fernsehshows und auf Wettbewerben die Kraft ihrer Stimmen.

[a playlist for World Poetry Day 2016] spoken word performer

Die ausgewählten Videos zeigen, wie über die bereits etablierten Gedicht-Schauplätze und Kategorien hinaus auf ein Publikum zugegangen werden muss, um einer  Zuhörerschaft neu zu begegnen. TJ Dema formuliert die Forderung nach dem Wort in Aktion, Sharrif Simmons testet seine Wirkung in einem fremden Land, Maud Vanhauwaert bringt ihr Gedicht in alltäglichen Situationen zum Einsatz.


TJ Dema


Sharrif Simmons


Maud Vanhauwaert


TJ Dema,

Sharrif Simmons and

Maud Vanhauwaert on lyrikline


Poetry and performance (4) – Presenting a poem in different ways

Posted in Gerhard Falkner by lyrikline on 18. March 2016

poetry and p klien


A poem is a poem – what else could it be? The German poet Gerhard Falkner is eager to try out new ways of presenting his work. Collaborations with other artists, filmmakers, graphic and sound designers are the results of his curiosity towards new shapes and dimensions of poetry.

[a playlist for World Poetry Day 2016] music performances

Mi 17.10. 20:00 Mein Vorbild – Tom Schulz trifft Gerhard Falkner Tom Schulz im Gespräch mit Gerhard Falkner Foto:

Gerhard Falkner Foto: gezett

In an interview with lyrikline he describes the two steps of his artistic process. During the creation of a poem the dimension of sound is already included: “Denken ist hören” – “thinking is listening” and cannot be separated from writing or reading. But the access to poetry differs: Reading and listening are two possibilities with different advantages. The second step of the process comes after the production when the “original” poem is already concluded. In collaborations Falkner describes himself as a tree that is being put in scene by a fence or a poster: It is still the tree but it is being looked at differently. His openness towards working together with other artists anticipates the recognition of different energies. Text, sound and action must profit from the coincident presentation. The first performance of Das Wort by Gerhard Falkner and Sound Designer Johannes Malfatti at the Literaturwerkstatt Berlin demonstrates the synergy of improvisation and montage of text and sound.

Gerhard Falkner at lyrikline