Nico Bleutge

Portrait Nico Bleutge
© Hartwig Klappert

Nico Bleutge was born in Munich in 1972. He grew up in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm and studied modern German literature, rhetoric and philosophy in Tubingen from 1993 to 1998.

In 2006, Bleutge debuted with »klare konturen« (tr. Clear outlines), a collection of sharp-witted and highly charged poems that explore the realms of sensory perception – i.e. seeing, hearing, feeling and speaking – generating what the Neue Zürcher Zeitung called an »archive of the moment«. Bleutge also redefines the landscape poem: individual elements stand for themselves rather than merging to create compact images; the objects being observed are thus freed from specific categories of language and any form of symbol overload. The act of writing poetry from the starting point of the perception of the senses – which emerge here as a new subject – also offers the lyrical narrator space for reflection. For example, his observations of a park in the Potsdam cycle lead to thoughts on historical traces. In his follow-up collection »fallstreifen« (2008; tr. Streaks of rain), Bleutge moves beyond sensory perception and follows the rhythm of language impulses connected to the act of remembering and memory. Working from landscapes and his own life story, he investigates mnemonic fields and ventures deep into historical layers going back to the Baroque era. Much like the landscape observations in his debut work, the fragments do not come together to form a whole; the formlessness of remembering is preserved. In the volume of poetry »verdecktes gelände« (2013; tr. Hidden terrain), Bleutge once again moves with heightened perception in the border zones between consciousness and the world, immersing himself in the depths of dreams, history and literature. Images of nature composed with a musical stroke prompt his landscape poetry and his work on fragmented cultural landscapes to become »Geländelyrik«, a type of topographical poetry (»Süddeutsche Zeitung«). In his latest volume of poems, »nachts leuchten die schiffe« (2017; tr. The ships shine at night), his texts are formed from scraps of his own and other languages, which in turn become the source Bleutge draws from to shape his language and sound images. Bleutge’s poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. When presenting the Eichendorff Literature Prize to Bleutge in 2015, Tobias Lehmkuhl stated: » Nico Bleutge’s poems are similar to those of Joseph von Eichendorff. Their apparent ease and gentle tone is genuine and warm and destined to last centuries.«

Bleutge has received the Anna Seghers Prize (2006), the Erich Fried Prize (2012) and the Alfred Kerr Prize (2016). Since 2001, he has worked as a freelance literary critic for the »Süddeutsche Zeitung«, »Neue Zürcher Zeitung«, »Tagesspiegel« and »Stuttgarter Zeitung«. He is a member of the PEN Center Germany and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts. He lives in Berlin.