Autor John Burnside
Friday 17 October 2014 - 00:00 to Sunday 19 October 2014 - 00:00
Robert-Koepke-Haus, Schwalenberg

Photo: © Olivier Roller/Fedephoto/Studio X

The Song of the Earth

"Poetry makes nothing happen, not on this earth,

but it reminds us of the core way of seeing,

the central need for reverence."

John Burnside

The Song of the Earth – what do we mean by the ‘search for home’? The desire for a starting point for life and art that is not subordinate to the imperatives of profit optimization. To see the world as it is, to listen and learn in humility, respecting each living thing and each natural event or phenomenon in its quiddity – such are the fundamental concerns of the internationally renowned Scottish author John Burnside. Whether writing of a deserted village in Scotland, composing poems about field mice or blackbirds, or pondering the delights of walking, the work of this novelist, poet and essayist shows a radical democrat’s care for the future of our planet. Care, too, for its people: so often stricken in his texts, his characters’ vulnerabilities frequently lead to acts of monstrous violence. John Burnside is one of the most prominent authors and compelling voices on the contemporary scene, a world-class storyteller, ‘his compass is his morality, his path is language – the greatest wonder of this wonderful author’ (Felicitas von Lovenberg).    

These readings, talks, panel discussions, exhibition and concerts will be devoted to the relationship between humans and the animal world. For John Burnside home has always been defined by its absence, as something that had to be invented in writing. It thus falls to art to imagine, in works of vision and reverence, the equitable home-place this planet could be. At the same time, the notion of such equitability is closely related to the question of what characterizes a good person. For Seneca, such a person was the participatory citizen; today it is more likely to be somebody who combines the virtues of experience, social commitment and art. John Burnside makes a case for a renewed sensitivity to the complexity of natural events and phenomena, a development he sees as a kind of secular re-sanctification. All English-language contributions will be translated into German.  

Read or watch our interview with John Burnside about working in prisons, family life and the eeriness of English suburbs.  


  • Authors: John Burnside, Allison Funk, Teresa Präauer, Raoul Schrott, Adam Thorpe, Jan Wagner, Ron Winkler and Robert Wrigley
  • Translators and Scientiests: Hans-Jürgen Balmes, David Borthwick, Alex Danchev, Iain Galbraith, Julika Griem, Bernhard Robben
  • Actors: Gregor Höppner, Hans Kremer and Hildegard Schmahl
  • Musicians: Anna Maria Friman, Arve Henriksen, Musicbanda Franui, Tarkovsky Quartet
  • Exhibition: Amy Shelton / John Burnside "Collaborations"


Friday, 17 October: Following a literary excursion, the programme will address our relationship to nature head-on by asking, by way of Amy Shelton’s exhibition and Hans Kremer’s reading, what the bees can tell us about our place in the world. Franui Musicbanda will conclude the evening with their performance of the Mahler lieder: ‘Memories of Eternity’.

Saturday, 18 October: Readings from Teresa Präauer (For the Ruler from Overseas),  Jan Wagner (Rainbow Variations), Ron Winkler will be sharing the first ever German translations of poetry by Allison Funk and Robert Wrigley

Sunday, 19 October: John Burnside’s speech "Animist Memories: Notes towards a Re-sanctified Europe". John Burnside, Alex Danchev, Teresa Präauer and Adam Thorpe will debate the nature of the European soul and ask what makes a good human being. The discussion is chaired by Hans Jürgen Balmes. 


Tickets range from €30 to €70. Buy them online or find more information on the website of Literaturbüro Ostwestfalen-Lippe