22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Uljana Wolf

Portrait Uljana Wolf
© Timm Kölln

Uljana Wolf was born in Berlin in 1979. She emerged early as a poet, even before taking up studies in German and English Literature at the Humboldt University in Berlin: she won the Fourth Berlin Young Writers’ Literature Competition in 1995. She has published many poems in anthologies and journals in Germany, Poland, Belarus and Ireland, among them »Edit«, »Das Gedicht«, »kursywa«, »Poetry Ireland Review« and »Lyrik von Jetzt«. In 1997 she took part in the German-Polish Poet Steamboat and in 2000 received a grant from Dublin’s Writer’s Union DUBCIT for the European art project »POETRY 2000« in Ireland. She lived in Kryzova in Poland for three months on a Mercator Berghaus grant, during which time she attempted to trace her grandparents’ origins and addressed the problematic points of contact within German and Polish history. This experience led to her writing part of her highly acclaimed first collection »kochanie ich habe brot gekauft« (2005; t: kochanie, i have bought bread) which won the Peter Huchel Prize. Wolf ranks among the youngest recipients of the prestigious prize that has also been awarded to poets such as Ernst Jandl, Durs Grünbein, Sarah Kirsch, Wolfgang Hilbig and Oskar Pastior.
The Polish expression »kochanie« means »darling«. In her poems Wolf investigates the possibilities and preconditions of language and communication, whether intercultural, international or interhuman. Motifs of speech, such as the expressions »language«, »tongue«, »translation«, »ask« and »be silent« run through many of her poems. In her treatment of the father type Wolf reaches the conclusion that »the male side of society is bound to history« and she tries to make visible gendered ways of memorising and narrating as such, thus normalised speech about history becomes branded as paternalistic.
Wolf’s poetry is characteristic in its succinctness and density; the words are coded by sound, content, gender and culture, and fuse multiple levels of meaning. Through this awareness the author dares to approach and explore what is one’s own and what is presumed to be »other«: »the foreign thus / creates talk«, is one of the central verses in the collection. Wolf ends the poem, also the title of the collection, with the lines »As something / assembles as halves / on a translatable / mattress«.
The jury of the Peter Huchel Prize rated the volume as »an outstanding new publication in the year 2005« and praised the author’s capacity to »render with only a few strokes the essences of her phenomenal world as textual miniatures in a manner of dreamlike assurance«. Recently Uljana Wolf was awarded the Dresden Poetry Prize. The author lives in Berlin.

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