International poetry in conversation at Spier

Dancing in Other Words programme announcement. Download the PDF version of this programme here.

Poetry and the reflections of award‐winning international literary figures, political dissidents, activists and a Nobel Prize frontrunner, will fill the Spier Manor House and Old Wine Cellar on 10 and 11 May.

The programme for Dancing in other words,  an international festival of poets and poetry, is now available on the festival website,

Participants include Ko Un (South Korea), David Shulman (Israel), Hans van de Waarsenburg (Holland), Carolyn Forché (USA), Tomaz Salamun (Slovenia), Joachim Sartorius (Germany), Yang Lian (China), André Naffis‐Sahely (Italy/Iran), Dele Olojede and Kole Omotoso (Nigeria), and Nic Dawes, Antjie Krog, Petra Müller, Antony Osler, Gunther Pakendorf and Marlene van Niekerk (South Africa). The two‐day event is curated by Breyten Breytenbach.

Dancing in other words  is presented by Spier in partnership with the Pirogue Collective, of which Breytenbach is a founding member.

A Poetry Reading, in two parts, will be presented in the Spier Old Wine Cellar on Friday 10 May from 6.30pm and on Saturday 11 May from 6.30pm. The Readings will be directed and choreographed by theatre director Marthinus Basson, with musical direction by composer and musician, Neo Muyanga.

The following poets will participate, on one of two nights: Breytenbach, Forché, Ko, Krog, Müller, Salamun, Sartorius, Shulman, Van de Waarsenburg, Van Niekerk and Yang.

Tickets are R150 per person per night, including wine and snacks. Early birds can book for both nights by Friday 12 April, at 10% discount: R270.

Book at Spier, 021 809 1100, during office hours, Monday to Friday, or email For more information, visit

The festival programme also includes a series of four moderated Conversations presented at the Spier Manor House on Friday and Saturday afternoon. The series is titled Dancing with the Unknowable: The ethics of imagination and the imagination of ethics. Attendance here is free of charge, but with strictly limited audience capacity, booking is advised.

Conversation I , at 1.30pm on Friday, is titled Lost in Translation, Found in Poetry: a Master Class in translation. Taking part in this first session will be South African poet, author, translator and lecturer, Marlene van Niekerk; Slovenian poet Tomaz Salamun, recognized as a leader of neo‐avant‐garde poetry in Central Europe; and André Naffis‐Sahely, best know for his recent translations of the work of Moroccan poet and writer, Abdellatif Laâbi.

Conversation I will be moderated by translator and academic, Professor Gunther Pakendorf.

Conversation II , at 3.30pm on Friday, is titled What has Ethics got to do with it?  Participants are South African poet, writer and journalist Antjie Krog; Chinese poet Yang Lian, exiled after the Tiananmen massacre and regarded as one of the most representative voices in Chinese literature; and David Shulman, an Israeli poet, renowned Indologist, peace activist and author of Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel & Palestine. The book is a diary of four years of political activity in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Conversation II will be moderated by Dele Olojede, Nigerian Pulitzer prize‐winning journalist.

Saturday 11 May
The programme continues on Saturday 11 May with Conversation III , from 1.30pm, titled Is the world decaying metaphor? Does poetry shape the world, or is it but a pulse beat of reality?

Participants are Dutch poet, former chairman of PEN and founder of The Maastricht International Poetry Nights, Hans van de Waarsenburg; Joachim Sartorius, German writer, diplomat, professor, Doctor of Law, former head of the Goethe‐Institute world‐wide and Director General of Berlin Festivals; and Carolyn Forché, American teacher, activist, poet and translator of among others Mahmoud Darwish.

Conversation III will be moderated by Professor Kole Omotoso, Nigerian‐born writer, academic and no stranger to the South African literary landscape.

The final Conversation IV , from 3.30pm on Saturday, is titled Is there a South African Way to the Great Nowhere?

Participants here are poet Ko Un, former Buddhist monk and South Korea’s most prolific literary figure, regularly mentioned as Nobel Prize frontrunner; South African poet and writer Petra Müller; and Antony Osler, Zen practitioner and author of Zen Dust, a journey home through the back roads of South Africa.

Conversation IV will be moderated by Mail & Guardian editor Nicholas Dawes.

Book at Spier, 021 809 1100, during office hours, Monday to Friday, or email For more information, visit