EPISODE 3: Contemporary German Voices

In Episode 3 we take you on our own German cultural exchange through poetry.

The podcast brings together themes and perspectives from our Contemporary German Voices series of live poetry events, which saw Poet in the City, in collaboration with TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow, Professor Karen Leeder from Oxford University, bring two of Germany’s best contemporary poetry voices to UK audiences. As well as showcasing the work of brilliant German poets Durs Grünbein and Ulrike Almut Sandig, the podcast features live poetry performance and commentary from guests including the award-winning UK poet Don Paterson.

With the spotlight on Germany, we’ll be finding out about all night poetry festivals in Berlin, how a Grimms fairy story gets turned into electrifying sound-art, looking at the influence of Rainer Maria Rilke on contemporary British poets, investigating the art and craft behind translation, and myth-busting the idea that German poets classically tend to be philosophical, inward looking and soul-searching.

This podcast was produced by Alia Cassam.


Karen Leeder is Professor of Modern German Literature and Fellow and Tutor in German at New College, Oxford. She is a prize-winning translator of contemporary literature including Evelyn Schlag, Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2004) for which she won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for Translation, 2005. She has published widely on modern German literature and recent publications include Brecht and the GDR, ed. with Laura Bradley (2011), Durs Grünbein: A Companion, ed. with Michael Eskin and Christopher Young (2013) and, about to come out: Re-reading East Germany: The Literature and Film of the GDR and Figuring Lateness: Lateness, Belatedness and Late Style in Modern German Culture. Karen has published reviews in a variety of newspapers and journals as well as appearing regularly on radio and television. She is an Oxford University TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow.

Ulrike Almut Sandig is an acclaimed German poet who was born in Großenhain (GDR) in 1979 and now lives in Berlin. She started publishing her poetry by pasting poems onto lamp posts in Leipzig and spreading them on flyers and free post cards. After completing her Magister in Religious Studies and Modern Indology, she subsequently graduated from the German Creative Writing Program Leipzig. A prose book and three volumes of her poetry have been published to date. Previous publications include radio plays and audio-books of poetry and pop music.

Don Paterson is an award winning UK poet. His is author of several award winning poetry collections including Rain (Faber) which won the Forward Prize 2009. Other collections include The Eyes (after Antonio Machado, Faber, 1999), Landing Light (Faber, 2003; Graywolf, 2004) and Orpheus (a version of Rilke’s Die Sonette an Orpheus, Faber, 2006). He has been awarded the T S Eliot Prize on two occasions. He received the OBE in 2008 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010. Don teaches poetry at the University of St Andrews, and since 1996 has been poetry editor at Picador MacMillan.

Durs Grünbein is an award winning German poet. He has published numerous collections of poetry and essays in German, and has translated a variety of authors, including John Ashbery, Samuel Beckett, Henri Michaux, and classic texts from Aeschylus. His poems have been translated into English by Michael Hofmann and published in Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems (2005). A poet who is frequently described as the best to emerge in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, ‘Durs Grünbein’s poems read as if the forces of history pressing in on the present drove them into this world.’ New York Times

Music and Audio Featured in this Programme:

Intro music: ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ by Manic Street Preachers feat. Nina Hoss – from the album Futurology (2014)

All other music taken from the album MÄRZWALD by Ulrike Almut Sandig and Marlen Pelny © Schöffling & Co, Frankfurt am Main 2011

Live footage from Richmix  22.02.15 and Keats House 12.05.15. Audio recordings copyright © The British Library Board