It is the poetic dimension in dealing with language that characterizes the Andalusian Alemanni, born in 1961. Oliver’s literary production is a search for traces of his multilingual and multicultural origins. The fact that his work alternates between languages and cultures in a tradition-conscious and innovative way was once again shown by the text examples of the poet, who was awarded the Basel Poetry Prize in 2015.
“I cannot live without these two cultures that I carry within me,” confesses Oliver. “Am I Spanish, am I German?” He asked himself while looking for a new home. He thinks the word “home” is “terrificly beautiful”. Oliver discovers what is his own in the foreign and vice versa. Developing an understanding for the foreign is his concern.
Author colleague Zwerger had a long list of questions with him, but he could not tick off completely. Some of the style-defining features of Oliver’s essays and poems became clearer. For example his language games with punctuation marks and word separations with “double: dot”. Zwerger questioned him extensively about this intertextuality and so, after a long time without culture, one heard poetological reflections once again from the mouth of the author.
Oliver admits that he is a great admirer of Hölderlin – a poem makes reference to Hölderlin – and that he adores the poet Hilde Domin, whose maxim “Today’s lyricist needs three kinds of courage …” he internalized and tried to implement. Yes, he admits, these are the poetic foundations for his writing. And to the second “Arena” guest, who is visiting Riehen this month, he says: “How nice that Peter Stamm is coming next”. They would have met only recently at a translator’s meeting.
For Oliver, the Corona year seems to be a lost one, he would “miss” it; his last reading in front of an audience was in February 2020. Now he looked at people who were wearing masks – “I admire you that you are sitting here,” he said to the audience, who were seated far apart but were quite numerous. They first heard the first story from the prose volume “Guest Rooms” – after “My Andalusian Black Forest Village” the second part of an Andalusian trilogy – and then a selection of poems that for the author are “like scores” and that have to be spoken out loud.
For a good hour and a half, visitors were able to immerse themselves in Oliver’s world of poetry, his idea of language and the new poetic spaces that he opened up. We can already look forward to the documentary film about his time as a city clerk in Istanbul, which is due to be released in the cinemas in autumn. Readings in the Arena Literatur-Initiative Riehen: June 23rd Peter Stamm, September 9th Lukas Hartmann.