REVERSE 2015 lasted for three days and had over 30 participants from 11 different countries, performing in seven different locations. The festival focused on multilingual poetry: is my language one or many? Can all languages express distinct experiences? Another theme investigated into the auditory side of poetry: What happens when we "undermine" the notion of poetry as symbolic, and move towards looking at poetry as sound and rhythm?
Is speaking, writing, breathing different languages being multiple personalities? In her poetry, Cia Rinne explores the sonorous aspect of language, the homophone qualities of different languages, stripping the words of their usual context so they become something other than mere means of communication. Her publications of visual, aural and conceptual poetry include archives zaroum (2008), notes for soloists (2009) and the project sounds for soloists. With Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen, she has made the documentary project The Roma Journeys (2007).
Mónica de la Torre
Meet the poet as avatar, as writer, as translator, as eraser. Writing with dark humour, Mexican poet and translator Mónica de la Torre’s poetry explores our constructions of identity – the multi-vocal, multi-situational self within society – and the instability of these identities. Her poetry collections include Public Domain (2008), Talk Shows (2007) and the chapbooks Four and The Happy End. De la Torre is an editor of BOMB Magazine and has coedited the bilingual anthology Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (2002).
When are we at home in our language? What happens when we’re not – can our “clumsiness” invent new words and meanings? In a multilingual and -cultural world where “home” isn’t necessarily one specific place, the Japanese poet and novelist Yoko Tawada’s work thematizes something many of us might feel: alienation as a mode of being – feeling at home in the strange. Tawada’s curiosity towards the space between language and sound and her talent for making visible the invisible in our everyday language is just thrilling.
“Composing music and writing poetry are very closely related for me. I play with the material, with words, sounds, meanings, notes.” Dutch poet and composer, Rozalie Hirs has published five books of experimental lyric poetry that examine the acts of listening and reading. Some of her poems are digital literature – i.e. the moving Family Tree which changes by wind or gravity movement made by the reader’s cursor, allowing the reader to explore different ways of talking about family. She also composes modern classical music, mixing traditional instruments with electronic sounds.
The French-Norwegian poet Caroline Bergvall works across languages, media and art forms – and many of her projects deal with multilingual poetics, feminisms and issues of cultural belonging. Many of her texts also exist as performance pieces. For instance, her latest project DRIFT was both a book exploring different forms of drifting – at sea and between languages – and a performance in collaboration with percussionist Ingar Zach.
Cecilie Lind is a Danish poet who graduated from the Danish Writer’s School, Forfatterskolen, in 2013. Since 2010, she has published two books of poetry, Ulven åd min eyeliner and Dughærget pupil accelererer tusmørket. Her third book, Strunk, just published, is a long poem that embroiders onwards, restlessly and relentlessly in a tone best described as gurlesque. Lind’s poetry is tumultuous, rhythmic, cascading, delicate and brutal at the same time, like tumbling down three flights of stairs in a patrician mansion.
In 2014, Caspar Eric's debut poetry collection 7/11 appeared. Along with the theme of having to cope with the fear of being out-dated, the book is notable for its active use of hashtags. His latest book NIKE, a long email/poem to an ex-girlfriend, is a reflection upon living with spasticity. In its portrayal of interactions between other people and the I, the book offers a critical view on the perception of the disabled body. Caspar Eric has also translated Mira Gonzalez' I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together into Danish.
Josefine Graakjær Nielsen
”KÆRE NIKLAS”, the long poem Rosebud, released in March 2015, begins. In Rosebud, a woman is addressing a man about a broken relationship and expresses longing for what’s lost. The shape of a 42-page long love letter, somewhat misleadingly covered in pink and in a voice both insisting and desperately longing to be heard. The title refers to the last words spoken by the media mogul Kane in the movie Citizen Kane from 1941. Nielsen has a BA in psychology and graduated from the Danish Writer’s School, Forfatterskolen, in 2013.
”I don't think it's possible to write anything serious nowadays that is not funny. Such is my opinion, although I am not sure I agree with it” Owner of two languages, the poetry of the Leningrad-born poet and translator Eugene Ostashevsky explores the absurd aspects of languages and of (non)sensical communication. Ostashevsky’s latest proejct is The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi – a work about the relationship between a pirate and a parrot, as well as the fundamental inability of language as means of expression.
Norwegian author and publishing editor, Geir Gulliksen, made his debut in 1986 and has written several poems, essays, plays, novels and children's books since. In his latest book of poetry, Ung trost klokken fem om morgenen i en brusende alm. Et dikt fra januar til september, he writes about the big questions in life from a bird's perspective. Gulliksen is one of Norway’s most influential writers, and his poetry is observing, emotional, reflective and highly addictive. In 2014 he received Aschehougprisen for his overall literary work.
The Leningrad-born poet, critic and translator Alexandr Skidan is one of Russia’s most critical poets. His poetry stems from a complex play between ethics, aesthetics and politics and is both lyrical and rambling, where the boundaries between poetry and philosophy shifts and blends. In his poetry he addresses the historical conditions of post-Soviet Russia, and establishes an ongoing conversation about the origins of the present crisis. His poetry collections include Delirium (1993), In the Re-Reading (1998), Red Shifting (2005) and most recently Dissolution (2010)
Ann Jäderlund is a Swedish poet, author and playwright. She has published twelve collections of poetry, her latest one, Vad hjälper det et människa om hon häller rent vatten over sig i alle sine dagar, was described by the Swedish critic Amelie Björck as a pallet of complex feelings – of anger, despair, aggression, longing and doubt – where thoughts around the death drive are questioned and contradicted. Jäderlund asks herself in an interview: “how does one capture the essence of life in language?” Often she’s been praised as an outstanding poet that manages exactly that.
Frøydis Sollid Simonsen
“Did you know that at least five species of mantis reproduce by cloning themselves? Which means they haven't had sex in over a million years? Things could be worse.”
Norwegian poet and drawer Frøydis Sollid Simonsen’s work can be described as humouristic, non-pretentious fragments of thoughts, where personal issues are woven into a fabric of scientific facts. Her debut Hver morgen kryper jeg opp fra havet (2013) was recently published in Danish and was called a “strong study in heartbreak and biology.” Besides performing at REVERSE, Frøydis has also made the poster for this year's festival.
Elaine Feeney is considered a leading part of political contemporary Irish writers. She has published three collections of poetry: Indiscipline (2007), Where’s Katie? (2010, Salmon) and The Radio was Gospel (2013, Salmon). Her work is just as strongly ironic, dry and provocative on the page as it is when read aloud. Carrying you through global cultural and social changes from the perspectives of the smallest minds, in the smallest towns in Ireland or anywhere else. Though her work offers limited joy, its wet and cold settings are not without objects of resilience and comfort: the odd whiskey or hot-water bottle.
American poet Mira Gonzalez has gained quite a lot of attention through her Twitter profile with its poetically distinct use of language. Her latest publication - co-authored with Tao Lin - is called Selected Tweets (2015). On Gonzalez’ first book, I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together (2013), Lena Dunham writes: “(It) brings experimental poetry into the internet age with dark, distinctly female riffs on ambition, depression and love” The book appeared in Danish translation by Caspar Eric spring 2015.
Uljana Wolf is a German poet and translator living and teaching in New York and Berlin. She works with different languages intertwining in her poetical practice and this is one of the things, which makes her poetry playful and political at the same time. In a reflection on moving back and forth between two places and languages, New York and Berlin, she has said that the "ground where language becomes slippery" is the aspect of multilinguality, which interests her most as a poet.
Martin Glaz Serup
Martin Glaz Serup is a Danish poet, literary critic and editor. His latest book of poetry is Romerske nætter (Roman Nights), and his dissertation, Relationel poesi was published in 2013. He is a co-founder of the literary journal Apparatur and the blog collective Promenaden, and has long worked in the intersection between poetry, theory, new media, and collaborations with poets from around the world. Therefore, he is an obvious choice for moderator of our debate on multilingual poetry.
Lars Skinnebach is a Danish poet. He won the Montana Literature Prize in 2009 and has published five books of poetry, as well as collaborative works and music. His latest book is Øvelser og rituelle tekster and focuses on the transformative, magical potential of writing through repetition, seeing the poem as a self-enclosed habitable biosphere. His work has long been concerned with the climate crisis – Klimakrisen is also the name of his band. Since 2006 he has taught at the Danish Writer’s School, Forfatterskolen.
Maja Lee Langvad
Maja Lee Langvad is a strong voice in Danish norm critical literature. Her books are conceptual works on transnational adoption, which open up a major debate on nationality, adoption, integration amongst other themes. For instance, her latest book HUN ER VRED (SHE IS ANGRY) is a long list of sections starting with the phrase "Hun er vred" followed by reasons for the anger of the adoptee I of the text related to the adoption.