Poetry under Pressure
Simon Rees reflecting on the events
On Thursday 24th and Friday 25th May, Cardiff University invited two poets from Germany, Uwe Kolbe and Richard Pietraß, to explore the concept of ‘Poetry under Pressure.’ In honour of their visit, the School hosted four events, engaging both with the academic and local communities.
German poetry comes to Cardiff
Firstly, a poetry translation workshop was held for MA Students at the School of European Languages, Translation and Politics. The aim of this workshop was to create a number of translations, which function as poetry, in a wide variety of languages based on two works by the visiting poets. The poems used for this event were ‘Notausgang’ by Richard Pietraß and ‘Daß ich so bin’ by Uwe Kolbe.
Reading of Kolbe's poem 'Prussia's Source'
On Thursday evening, a poetry reading was held at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre. Members of the local community were warmly invited to attend this event and experience Germany’s rich lyric tradition and cultural history. In order to make the poems accessible to audience members without German, they were accompanied by an introduction outlining the context in which these works were written, as well as translations into English and Welsh. The poems were translated by Mererid Hopwood, Karen Leeder, David Clarke and Ruth Owen. The reading provided an opportunity for the local community and the next generation of Germanists to engage with the nation’s literary and cultural traditions.
Jane Blank's response to the reading
Writing in the GDR
Following the poetry reading, the School hosted a public colloquium, which included an in-depth interview with Kolbe and Pietraß about the socio-political and cultural circumstances under which they were writing in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). This interview gave an insight into censorship, cultural policy and the fall of the Berlin Wall amongst other topics. The event also consisted of a brief introduction to the GDR and short talks by Sara Jones (University of Birmingham) and David Clarke (University of Bath). The colloquium provided a valuable insight into the history and culture of the GDR for both Cardiff students and members of the local community.
Finally, the itinerary drew to a close with a poetry round-table workshop, hosted at the Wales Millennium Centre. In this event, which was chaired by Mererid Hopwood, the National Eisteddfod Chair, Crown and Literature medal winner for poetry, the two visiting German poets were joined by a number of Wales-resident poets Jane Blank, Anni Wilton Jones, Simon Rees and Rhys Trimble. This cultural exchange focussed on the notion of writing ‘poetry under pressure’ in our contemporary world, enabling cross-European dialogues about the role of poetry in their respective societies today.
Anni Wilton Jones' response to the reading
‘Poetry under Pressure’ proved to be a great success, bridging the gap between the German and Welsh cultures and demonstrating the universal nature of literature. Both the visiting poets and the local participants expressed how much they had gained from this experience. The events also allowed the local community to engage with the exciting research being undertaken by Cardiff University in the School of European Languages, Translation and Politics.
This report was written by Hannah O'Connor, an MPhil student in the School.