Levin Westermann

Portrait Levin Westermann
© Hartwig Klappert

Levin Westermann was born in 1980 in Meerbusch and studied at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main as well as at the Hochschule der Künste in Bern.

In 2012, he published his first poetry collection »unbekannt verzogen« (tr: address unknown). Even in his début texts, the fundamental themes of individual forlornness and existential uncertainty become clear as well as the endeavor to find a reorientation in language and style in poetry to match the experience of such a phantom-like existence. Metaphorically barren and rich in their gaps, Westermann’s poems implement that which Ilse Aichinger formulated as the maxim of speaking through silence. »Aichinger – that was the first German-language author that triggered the idea in me, that I noticed: […] it doesn’t even have to be out loud. And what is not said out loud in the silence is actually much more interesting. That’s Aichinger.« In his second poetry collection »3511 Zwetajewa« (2017; tr: 3511 Tsvetaeva) Westermann carries on an imaginary poetic dialogue with poets from past epochs. Two quotes from Mary Ruefle and Sarah Kane open the cycles around the life and work of Anton Chekhov, Simone Weil, and Marina Tsvetaeva. In the first part, »Tschechow. Eine Reise in zehn Teilen« (tr: Chekhov: A Journey in Ten Parts), Westermann shows in equally evocative and unsettling images the dying Chekhov on an insane journey. Above all, in his texts Westermann describes the experiences of an existential abyss and of transience: »I have become an observer. / The soul hides in its last fortress / and like an animal it observes the other souls – / or their absence.« The title of the book refers to an asteroid discovered in the 1980s that was named after the famous Russian poet from the Silver Age. In the last cycle in the volume, Westermann devotes more than forty short texts to the tragic fate of Marina Tsvetaeva, who was crushed between the world wars and the system and ultimately chose suicide. The texts come together in the search for traces of a man who, in the year 2013, follows Tsvetaeva’s poetic voice and the phases in her life, beginning with her 1922 residence in Berlin and reaching to her letters to Rilke and Pasternak, photographs, and last notes. This research furthermore initiates an individual writing process that is simultaneously reflected upon.

Westermann’s texts also appear in anthologies and journals like »Gegenstrophe«, »manuskripte« and »Sprache im technischen Zeitalter«. Among other awards, he has earned the poetry prize from the 18th open mike competition in 2010, several grants in Germany and Switzerland, as well as the Orphil prize for débuts from the city of Wiesbaden in 2014. The author lives in Biel.