10.02.1978

“A significant and curious literary event”: The foundation of the Bielefeld Colloquium for New Poetry

Featuring unconventional poetry in Bielefeld, the Bielefeld Colloquium on New Poetry rapidly develops into a brand. The Colloquium originated from a conference “Literature Development and Literary Analysis” organised by literary scholar Siegfried J. Schmidt at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF). It is considered to be one of the most high-profile and “most renowned meetings of authors that literary life in Germany produced after 1945”, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ).  

  • Poster for the 3. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1980.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/47
  • Poster for the 9. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1986.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/62
  • Poster for the 12. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1989.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/65
  • Poster for the 16. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1993.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/68
  • Poster for the 18. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1995.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/69
  • Poster for the 20. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1997.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/71
  • Poster for the 22. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 1999.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/73
  • Poster for the 25. Bielefelder Colloquium Neue Poesie, 2002.

    Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, PL3/15

The public reading in the Kunsthalle turned out to be a “significant curious literary event” (Westfalen-Blatt of 13 February 1978) with an unexpectedly large audience and lively atmosphere. These public events spontaneously came into being almost by chance in 1978. They featured renowned representatives of concrete poetry such as Ernst Jandl, Helmut Heißenbüttel, Friederike Mayröcker, Oskar Pastior, Franz Mon or Gerhard Rühm. In the following years, they developed into a popular “festival of experimental literature”, making Bielefeld the European capital of poetry once a year.

“Fest für neue Literatur” (“Festival for new literature”) in the lecture hall of the Kunsthalle on 10 February 1978. In the audience Siegfried J. Schmidt, the initiator of the ZiF conference (from left to right), directly in front of the lectern Franz Mon, Helmut Heißenbüttel and Ernst Jandl, as well as University Chancellor Eberhard Firnhaber – himself an author of concrete poetry – and Renate Firnhaber. Photo: Helga Wehmeyer.

Photo: Helga Wehmeyer
Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FOS 01898

Despite its success and the reputation it had gained, the colloquium had always stood on shaky financial ground and after 25 years the event was drawn to a close with little fanfare and great care by the Bielefeld literary scholars Professor Dr. Jörg Drews und Professor Dr. Klaus Ramm.

Extract from the film “40 Jahre LiLi. Gestern – heute – morgen” (“40 years of LiLi. Yesterday – today – tomorrow”) from 2012.

Source: Universitätsarchiv Bielefeld, FS 222.

„Silent Self-Dissolution“
After 25 successful years, the colloquium ended in “silent self-dissolution” in 2002, still with the improvised and informal style that had characterised it since its inception. There were no sponsors in sight and Drews and Ramm were heading for retirement. The last colloquium, which was as lively, controversial, illuminating and challenging as ever, and was certainly not just a veteran meeting of a vanishing literary form, was concluded with a typically unpretentious “thank you” and “good night”.

  • Impressions of the closing event of the 25th and last Colloquium on 3 May 2002: Konrad Balder Schäuffelen.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • Impressions of the closing event of the 25th and last Colloquium on 3 May 2002: Jörg Drews, Elke Lietz (Chairperson of the Cultural Committee of the City of Bielefeld), Franz Mon.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • Impressions of the closing event of the 25th and last Colloquium on 3 May 2002: Elfriede Czurda, Friedrich Achleitner, Herbert J. Wimmer, Gerhard Rühm.


    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld

  • Impressions of the closing event of the 25th and last Colloquium on 3 May 2002: Bernhard Heidsieck, Ilse Garnier.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld
  • Impressions of the closing event of the 25th and last Colloquium on 3 May 2002: Welcome speech of the organizers, here Klaus Ramm.

    Photo: Norma Langohr
    Source: Universität Bielefeld