08 June 2012

Poetry under Pressure

Germany, at the heart of Europe, has a cultural history full of pressures and fissures of various kinds. It also has a rich lyric tradition which, like the country’s cultural history, deserves to be better known in the UK. In May 2012, the Poetry Research Network invited two poets from Germany to explore with us the multi-facetted concept of “Poetry under Pressure”. Uwe Kolbe and Richard Pietraß have been poets writing in remarkable circumstances: they were writing, editing and translating poetry behind the Iron Curtain in the GDR; today they are poets writing in the contemporary Berlin Republic; they also wrote during the pressured era of transition between those two cultural contexts.

Poetry Reading at Chapter Arts Centre. Uwe Kolbe and Richard Pietraß gave a public reading from their works, with new translations into English and into Welsh, made over the preceding months by Mererid Hopwood, Karen Leeder, David Clarke and me.
Uwe Kolbe
Interview and Talks
at Cardiff University School of European Languages, Translation and Politics. In front of an audience of local residents and school pupils, we interviewed the two poets about their roles in the various German cultures they have experienced. Discussion was of cultural policy, poetry and censorship, poetry magazines, urban poems, and poetry translation. In addition, short talks focussed on censorship in the GDR and on memory of the GDR. 

Richard Pietraß
Poets’ Workshop at the Wales Millennium Centre. The poets from Germany were joined by poets in Wales for a round-table workshop. The aim was to discuss their shared and differing conceptions of poetry under pressure, including different experiences of marginalisation and cultural hegemony in the GDR, in Germany today and in Britain. The workshop was an opportunity to develop cross-European dialogues about the place of poetry and the conditions of its production and reception.