/ 3 July 2019

The Week of The Festival: Hausacher Leselenz, Hausach, Germany

Short and Bittersweet

An Interview with Lütfiye Güzel

Jon Cho-Polizzi:      Gerrit Wustmann’s review of your 2018 lyric band selfklebend, “Bedrohlich dunkle Herzen” [Forbiddingly Dark Hearts], begins with the claim: “in today’s German literary scene there is no one who so consequently subverts all conventions like Lütfiye Güzel.” This seems to be a common sentiment concerning the reputation you’ve acquired as a poet. To what extent is ‘subversion of all conventions’ a conscious part of your poetic process or is it self-evident for you that writing poetry requires a certain element of reinvention? 

Lütfiye Güzel:      “Subverting all conventions” isn’t something I set out to do. It’s an entirely natural process for me, both personally and in the way I view and write the world.

I initially published three books of poetry with a small publishing house in Duisburg. It went well, but I needed to take the next step and establish as much independence for myself as possible. Utilize the wiggle room. In that sense, maybe the term “reinvention” is appropriate: I don’t want to bore myself.

The comfort zone of a publishing house can truly be comforting: someone to look after printing, shipping, ISBN, and everything else, but it wasn’t and still isn’t for me. Everyone has to decide that for themselves. My dream could be someone else’s nightmare, and vice versa. But it’s gotten to the point where people rarely talk about my poetry without thematizing my attitude toward the literary scene…

I don’t try to match the picture that I had or have of myself. Positive change and/or further development is a good thing, and not only for art.

there’s seldom much behind what

– everybody – 

what do you do in
real life?
real life
real life
is either up or down
the middle is just the pharmacy




it’s not easy

being crazy
& if it doesn’t earn you
it’s even harder still


JC:      In Lisa Jeschke’s introduction to your most recent exhibition in Berlin, she writes that “global politics are also retained in the smallest unit, the self.” One can conceptualize individual ‘units’ in different ways. As a poet who self-publishes her projects, both the means and materiality of your publications also play a role in your poetry. In some cases, the material ‘units’ of your poems are part of the works themselves. Has publishing influenced your poetic process?

LG:      “Materiality as part of the poetry?” It might shatter a few romantic notions, but I’m often just pragmatic. Printing books, even for limited circulation, still isn’t cheap. Most of my books are bound as paperbacks. Sort of classic, but also sort of not. Everyone gives me different feedback. In between times, I also like to reach people with my poetry more quickly, more inexpensively, and in a less complicated manner. Then I type them, print them, copy them around the corner, cut them out, stick them loose-leaf in sandwich bags. Finished. Or I make stickers.

I might have let things get under my skin a few years back: “You have to have a publisher, an ISBN, an editor, etc.!”

Yeah, it could be that it’s easier like this. The artistic comfort zone would be back, but I still did it my own way.

Risked it. It works for me.

ghost train-carousel

twenty new books
in padded envelopes
the brackets stretch
their heads
out through both holes
i’ll just glue the pages
before i’m shot
by my own organs

JC:      Platforms like Twitter, for example, also function in a way as a form of self-publishing. They allow for instant dissemination at the click of a button. Your poems are often short and [bitter]sweet. In that sense, they could lend themselves to digital communication, as well. Do you tweet? Or what role (if any) do you see self-published literature playing in the digital war-of-words?

LG:      I don’t tweet. No Facebook. No Instagram. A homepage that I completely deleted a few weeks ago, and might revive at some point.

And now we’re back to “reinvention.” I have nothing against social media. In my opinion, a lot of people use them very creatively and effectively for their art. I don’t really know why I don’t play along. Maybe I’m not quick enough. I don’t know. But that can all still change. An expression like “digital war-of-words” gives me the heebie jeebies. War sucks.



for nothing & for bed
going out

only to have gone

a little peace between two countries

fucking war!

As a closing bonus, four quotes people in the audience have told me stuck with them most after the readings:

“people ride second-class, 
seats ride first.”

“i’d like to talk to someone, 
but there are only people here.”

that people pass by
while someone’s breathing
and stop
when someone’s dead.”

“& after surviving
that scathed
you only want to go to the zoo
and draw gorillas.”

once upon a time

nothing more

English translation by Jon Cho-Polizzi


Lütfiye Güzel was born in Duisburg in 1972 and commutes today between Duisburg and Berlin. Since 2014, she has published her own work under the label Go-Güzel-Publishing. She teaches poetry workshops at schools and in museums, and in November 2017 was awarded the Literaturpreis Ruhr. Her recent publications include Nix Meer (2018), ELLE-REBELLE(2017), Faible?(2017), and the novella Oh, No! (2016). Her most recent volume, dreh-buch, was published in February 2019.