Time to Listen
Poetries of Life

Poesien des Lebens Illustration: Tobias Schrank © Goethe-Institut

How can we express the momentariness, the inconsistency, the vagueness or the monstrosity of an experience? Authors from all over the world try to do so in these clips: finding their own poetic way.

Christine Godinez Ortega © Christine Godinez Ortega

Christine Godinez Ortega, Iligan City
Why the Sultan in the Land of Coconuts did not die

The sultan of a land flowing with milk and honey could talk to the birds and predict the future. He had a wonderful wife, was loved by all his subjects. One night he had a dream that changed his life. He met his predecessor, who was as happy as he was, but disappeared without a trace...

Portrait of Gaye Boralıoğlu © Gaye Boralıoğlu

Gaye Boralıoğlu, Istanbul
The chocolate tree

Gaye Boralıoğlu loved chocolate when she was a kid. In order to always have an inexhaustible supply of chocolate and gold, she came up with an unusual idea - but she did not expect her mother's ingenuity.

Portrait of Véronique Tadjo © Véronique Tadjo

Véronique Tadjo, London
Faced with the powerful death, poetry can solace

Véronique Tadjo reads a chapter from her novel "The Whispering Tree", about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. A young man, whose fiancée has been infected with the Ebola virus, remembers their shared love for poetry as the only way to express his love for her.

Portrait of Jacek Dehnel © Jacek Dehnel

Jacek Dehnel, Warsaw
Claudius Rex Daniae

Claudius remembers his brother, Hamlet's father. His splendid appearance, which earned him the sympathy of his subjects, especially of the women. He also remembers the wars through which the Danish king gained immense power. And finally he remembers Hamlet, the "arrogant dandy". What actually prevented him, Claudius, from killing Hamlet?

Portrait by Itamar Vieira Junior © Itamar Vieira Junior

Itamar Vieira Junior, Salvador da Bahia
Alma’s way

Little is known about Alma, who in the 18th century founded a community that today is home to 900 families. Alma was a former slave. She walked 400 kilometres on foot from the capital. Itamar Vieira Junior imagines what experiences she had on her way, what thoughts occupied her, what drove her.

Igiaba Scego © Igiaba Scego

Igiaba Scego, Rome
A short-lived utopia

Impressions from a street in Rome, completely different from the others. People not chasing after material things, following their stories in their thoughts and perceiving a colour that keeps coming back ...

Portrait of Sofi Oksanen © Sofi Oksanen

Sofi Oksanen, Helsinki
Where a better future was designed

Sofi Oksanen tells of a place where in the days of the Soviet Union - unobserved by the state - a free exchange of ideas could thrive. A place where dreams and hopes were preserved for decades and a unique art has been cultivated for generations ...

Portrait of Shamin Chibba © Shamin Chibba

Shamin Chibba, Johannesburg

Shamin Chibba narrates the story of his grandmother. In telling the story, present and past flow into each other: Memories of a hard life, of political events in India, twists of fate and everyday experiences...

Jeaninne Masika Harrysson © Jeaninne Masika Harrysson

Jeaninne Masika Harrysson, Gothenburg
Take my story!

The words in this poetic text, which concludes with the lines: "...this is how love is born", act against the fear and the feeling of loneliness that creeps in these times.

Portrait of Bae Suah © Bae Suah

Bae Suah, Seoul/ Rabat
Like panthers on empty streets

Bae Suah was on a writing residency in Morocco. But her stay took on unexpected forms and led to new impressions, such as the sight of cats roaming empty streets like panthers, looking like prophets in disguise.

Picture of Pavlina Marvin in the forest © Pavlina Marvin

Pavlina Marvin, Athens
A coat with all its flowers

Pavlina Marvin tells of her friend Irini, who gave her a floral coat during their studies. She wears the coat to this day, as it hasn’t lost any of its flowers. When both of them wanted to meet in Athens recently, Irini didn’t show up. She was looking after an Indian man who had lost his job due to the pandemic and was therefore in great distress.

Image of Steinunn Sigurðadottir in front of a painting © Steinunn Sigurðadottir

Steinunn Sigurðadottir, Reykjavík
A gift from my father

The story of Steinunn Sigurðadottir begins at the foot of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. At this place in 1910 a maid became pregnant - by the landlord. This is why she had to leave the farm, which was unfortunately usual these days. She went to Reykjavík on foot, which took 7 days at that time.
Thus begins a journey through the decades, at the end of which Steinunn's life story begins. And a gesture of generosity and kindness of heart is revealed.

Portrait of Aris Fioretos © Aris Fioretos

Aris Fioretos, Stockholm
A flying carpet

In whose voice do authors write? What do the words mean? What does it mean to have a "voice of your own" as a writer? Aris Fioretos, son of an Austrian mother and a Greek father, raised in Sweden, tells how he found his voice - while splitting his voice from his image.

Portrait of Lapdiang A. Syiem © Lapdiang A. Syiem

Lapdiang A. Syiem, Shillong
Dear Mei!

From her apartment, the narrator looks out over a river, a cemetery - and a street between the two; in a sense, between life and death. She tells of her mother, remembers her goddesslike abilities, her quirks. And there she turns to her "Dear Mei!" - her "Dear Mother" - to send her a message between life and death. 

Portrait of Gamel Apalayine © Gamel Apalayine

Gamel Apalayine, Accra
Climb every mountain

When David was 7 years old, he saw a scene from the Hollywood classic "The Sound of Music" on television: A nun sings the song "Climb every mountain", which accompanies David from then on and gives him the strength to make a difficult decision at an important point in his life.

Image of Michal Hvorecký in front of a book shelf © Michal Hvorecký

Michal Hvorecký, Bratislava
Do you have my grandfather's books?

The writer and translator Michal Hvorecký works in a library in Bratislava, where one day a gentleman came in and introduced himself as the grandson of a world-famous writer. This encounter was to have consequences.

Portrait of Ilija Trojanow © Ilija Trojanow

Ilija Trojanow, Stuttgart
Then who will buy the smaller package?

Following in the footsteps of the "world collector" Richard Burton in what we now call "Tanzania", Ilija Trojanow came across a market where an old woman gave him a precious thought.

Portrait of Sachiko Hara © Sachiko Hara

Sachiko Hara, Zurich
I come from Hiroshima

In 1968 a survivor of the atomic bombing visits the German city of Hanover together with a delegation. At a bus stop a conversation takes place with a man who withdraws his outstretched hand when he finds out where the visitor comes from - for fear of radioactive radiation.
When the mayor of Hanover hears this, he takes the initiative.