Anja Utler was born in Schwandorf in 1973. She studied eastern Slavonic languages and literature, Anglistics and elocution in Regensburg, Norwich and St Petersburg. She made her poetry debut in 1999 with the volume aufsagen. In 2003, Utler received a doctorate for her thesis on female Russian Modernist poets. In the same year, she was presented with the Leonce-und-Lena-Preis, the most important award for young poets in the German-speaking world. She now lives in Vienna.
Anja Utler’s poems are, as the Leonce-und-Lena-Preis jury said, “sensual sound constructions, on paper as in recitation, without being pure sound-poetry. Rather, they are language games of psychological world perception, that out of the substance of their words create shafts of illumination through which our curiosity, but also our bafflement in the exploration of language, feel their way.”
The line breaks in her texts, which often come in the middle of a word, span a semantic landscape. Her varied character settings establish the poems as a precise notation between score and reading text, language and music. Semantics, syntax and rhythm form a unique unity. As publishing house Edition Korrepondenzen writes of Utler’s new volume of poetry, which they are preparing for publication at the time of writing: “The linguistic draw of Anja Utler’s poetic interweavement pulls us into an interplay that constitutes an unbroken, preconscious wholeness, where inner and outer, bodily and natural, flow in and out of one another.”
Thematically as well as poetically, Utler’s texts display compressed bodies of language. Inspired by her work with articulation, and starting from constituent parts of the act of speech, the scratches (schürfstellen) of perception, Utler interweaves sound and motif, which support the excitement of the sensual, emotional and linguistic contradictions, and out of which a definite beauty emerges.
The cycle that is presented here revolves around the satyr Marsyas, the challenger of Apollo, to whom he subsequently succumbed in a musical contest and as a result was skinned. The prostrate figure of Marsayas, a resounding image in cultural and literary history, emerges, mediated through the perspectives of these differing epochs and media. In ever-shifting approaches, Utler dissects Marsayas’ defenceless and suffering body, removing him from the piercing gaze of Apollo. The text styles Marsyas as having a poetic-phonetic ‘oneness’ with himself and his environment – perhaps also an appropriate description of Utler’s work in general. In the end, the cycle of Marsyas finally releases him, with dancing phoneticism, in an expectant land (“harrendes land”) on the other side of language.
Thomas Kling, one of the best known poets in Germany today, writes of Utler: “This is very rare: Anja Utler feels the language. Because of this, she writes so harshly and so sparklingly, so compassionately exactly. Because of this, there is the Sibylline clarity and stunning richness of her poems. I know of hardly anyone at the moment, of whatever age, who comes anywhere close to Anja Utler.”
aufsagen. Bunte Raben Verlag, Lintig-Meckelstedt 1999.
münden – entzüngeln. Edition Korrespondenzen, Wien 2004.
Heiß auf dich. 100 Lock- und Liebesgedichte. Eds. Anton G. Leitner und Anja Utler. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag: München 2002.
2. Lyrikpreis der Akademie Graz, 2001
Fellowship Literatur der Stiftung Insel Hombroich, 2001
Leonce-und-Lena-Preis für Lyrik, 2003
Anja Utler on Lyrikline