There was a magical atmosphere when 20TAL and Dramaten brought contemporary, innovative poetry to the theatre stage, during a thrilling three-day display of poetic voices from different parts of the world! Poetry, music and performance art converged in unique and experimental performances, where poets, actors, composers and translators all came together to interpret the theme of the festival: »Time is calling!«


Madeleine Grive inaugurating the festival. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Scenography by Erika Sjödin. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.


I have to step

over the dark threshold.

A hall.

The white document gleams.

With many shadows moving.

Everyone wants to sign it-

Until the light overtook me

and folded up time.


In 1997, Stockholm International Poetry Festival was inaugurated at Elverket/Dramaten with this poem, »Signatures«, which at the time was newly written by Tomas Tranströmer. The poem was read by Krister Henriksson, while Tranströmer lit a candle for the festival and Fläskkvartetten performed their music.

In December of 2022, it was time to celebrate the festival’s 25th anniversary. The festival’s founder and creative director, Madeleine Grive, started off the evening by reading Tranströmer’s poem. This performance set the tone before she presented the theme of the festival, »Time is calling!«. These words are from a poem written by another Swedish poet and Nobel laureate: »Väckarklockan«, by Harry Martinson.

»Time is calling, and many of us are probably experiencing that the call of time is louder now than it has been for a very long time, in the present situation of political upheavals, climate change and war. To a greater degree than any other form of expression, poetry allows us to challenge the various norms which dictate how we should embrace our existence. It can become a carrier of complex questions and make us look at things through different lenses«, said Madeleine Grive.

Sara Parkman. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Together with musician Hampus Norén, violinist, singer and composer Sara Parkman performed her majestic and spiritual pop songs, which are influenced by godly revelations, ancient folklore, and death.


Parkman and Norén performed multiple times during the evening.

Sara Parkman and Hampus Norén performing. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

The first poet of this year’s festival was Kim Hyesoon (South Korea), who gave the audience goosebumps while she was reading her shamanistic, ritualized, and ecstatic poetry of death. Together with actress Stina Ekblad, who read the Swedish translation, Kim Hyesoon read in Korean from her poetry collection Autobiography of Death (translated into Swedish as Autobiografi av död, by Jennifer Hayashida and Andjeas Ejiksson).

Kim Hyesoon. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Kim Hyesoon and Stina Ekblad. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Owl Woman (Ida Lod) amplified the mystical touch with her stealthy entrance, that later exploded into spellbinding, physical and musical conjurations.

Owl Woman. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

A hidden Owl Woman. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

»To be an enigma / To never let oneself submit«, writes Ingela Strandberg in the poetry collection Nattmannen. Strandberg read poems deeply rooted in the mysteriousness of existence, humanity, nature, death, and everything existing in between these concepts.

Ingela Strandberg. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

»In times of disaster and war, my faith in poetry grows even stronger, not because the poem can stand in the way of disaster, but because it is an ongoing attempt to offer resistance.« This was how poet Sorin Masifi introduced herself before the festival. In the autumn of 2022, her debut Staten Systrarna Dikten was published. It is a collection of poetry that illuminates and traverses the complex layers that make up her life: Kurdistan, her family, war, poetry, and exile.

Sorin Masifi. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Hampus Norén and Sara Parkman. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

In 2022, author Mare Kandre would have been 60 years old.

Since 2006, the Mare Kandre award is awarded at the Stockholm International Poetry Festival, in collaboration with Kandres family. The award is given to an author who writes in the spirit of Mare Kandre.

The winner of the 2022 Mare Kandre award was Andrea Lundgren. During her speech, Lundgren explained the significance of Kandre’s influence on her writing and expressed that it meant a lot to receive the award.

Madeleine Grive and Andrea Lundgren. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Kateryna Kalytko is one of Ukraine’s most important poets. At home, Kalytko supports the army and helps people in need. She traveled to Stockholm for the poetry festival and performed her poems together with actor Elin Klinga. The poems were translated into Swedish by Susanna Witt.

Kateryna Kalytko. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Elin Klinga. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Together with jazz musicians Per Texas Johansson and Petter Eldh, the poet Fiston Mwanza Mujila made the audience cheer while witnessing his lyrical poetry performance, which draws its power from Congolese traditions. Mwanza Mujila’s poetry is inspired by Congolese rumba and South African jazz, combined with postcolonial criticism, resulting in a completely unique poetic voice.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

Photographed by Leonard Stenberg.

The festival continued during Saturday, December 3rd, with talks during the day and stage performances in the evening.

During the day two talks about current topics in poetry were held, where international poets spoke to Swedish authors and translators.

Kim Hyesoon, Christian Park and Don Mee Choi. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Jenny Tunedal, Andjeas Ejiksson and Jennifer Hayashida. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Kim Hyesoon spoke about her book Autobiografi av död (Autobiography of Death), in a conversation with her Swedish and English translators: Andreas Ejiksson, Jennifer Hayashida and Don Mee Choi. The author Jenny Thunedal moderated this stage conversation,which revolved around the possibilities and obstacles that arise in the translation of a poetic voice that is deeply rooted in a very specific cultural and linguistic tradition. The translators spoke about their experience in dealing with demands of linguistic purism when translating. But also about allowing their fractured relationships to their own mother tongues add personal idiosyncrasies in their interpretations.

The theme of the festival, »Time is calling!«, was also the theme for the second Saturday talk. Sjón (Iceland), Halyna Kruk (Ukraine), Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Kongo/Austria) and Juliane Rui (Norway) participated in a passionate stage conversation, moderated by literary critic Jenny Aschenbrenner. The conversation revolved around the significance of poetry today, which led to Sjón exclaiming that poetry is the foremost form of expression created by man. This, he said, is because poetry, regardless of its thematic and linguistic particularity, can bring people together through shared human experience and emotion. Halyna Kruk spoke about how poetry can be written in a way that makes people truly empathize with the experience of war and its many horrors. Fiston Mwanza Mujila spoke about the importance of writing poetry to portray circumstances and experiences in a way that challenges the dominant way of writing global history, which is defined by Western tradition. Juliane Rui described how her poetry is based on her feeling of being one with the place and the ecology where she lives, and how her experience is affected by global and local climate change.

Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Madeleine Grive introduced Sjón, who initiated Saturday night’s program. Sjón read his poems in a performance with the actor Christoffer Svensson.

Sjón read about constellations, whiteout, a fourteen-thousand-year-old woman and her ten-thousand-year-old husband, as well as the sun and the moon unleashing their magic.

Madeleine Grive. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Sjón. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Together with translator Helena Boberg, the Swedish-American poet Johannes Göransson read from his poetry collection Sommar, which will be released in Swedish in 2023. In Göransson’s lyrical poetry the English language is distorted by Swedish. The book consists of elegies dedicated to his deceased daughter, Arachne. It also includes meditations on the copious waste produced by capitalism, as well as desperate attempts to understand the purity and guilt created by living and writing.

Johannes Göransson. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Memories of war and a stolen language is the foundation of Don Mee Choi’s cross-genre poetry collection, Knappt krig (Hardly War). Poems are combined with her fathers’ photographs from the Korean war, letters from children orphaned during the war, and theories of translation. These photographs were shown on stage, during a breathtaking performance where Don Mee Choi read together with Swedish actress Bianca Cruzeiro (Swedish translation by Jennifer Hayashida and Andjeas Ejiksson).

Don Mee Choi. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Don Mee Choi. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

In two music performances during the evening, musician Katharina Nuttall played songs from her newly released album The Garden. This album was inspired by poets such as John Keats and Baudelaire. Earlier that day, the album was reviewed in Dagens Industri by Jan Gravall, who wrote:  »Suggestive at top level, The Garden maintains top international quality. Grinding and suggestive music that brings Spacemen 3 and The Velvet Underground to mind.«

Katharina Nuttall and her band. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Katharina Nuttall. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

In her poetry, Ann Jäderlund puts words, clauses, and stanzas against each other in linguistic experiments, to portray how the conventions of language can seem foreign to the self. During the festival she read from Djupa kärlek ingen, which, like all of her poetry, expresses the pain but also the possibilities that are a result of trying to feel your way through language and what different words can signify. 

Ann Jäderlund. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

In a performance with the actor Joel Valois, poet Juliane Rui read intimate and fragile ecopoetry from her book Snurra min äng, translated into Swedish by John Swedennmark. The speaker of the poems moves through a landscape, without any feeling of distance. While doing this, she assigns both the smallest and largest inhabitants of the world new and different proportions.

Juliane Rui and Joel Valois. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

When introducing the poet Halyna Kruk, Madeleine Grive recounted a conversation between the two at Dramaten’s staff restaurant, when they were both looking out over a cityscape illuminated by electric light. With tears in her eyes, Kruk told Grive how she had traveled through a dark Ukraine, and how she had almost forgotten what a city lit up by lights looked like. Kruk is one of Ukraine’s most significant poetic voices and has participated in the Stockholm International Poetry Festival several times since 2005. She read her poignant poetry about the war, translated into Swedish by Susanna Witt, in a stage performance with actress Rebecka Hemse.

Halyna Kruk. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.

Halyna Kruk and Rebecka Hemse. Photographed by Anna Drvnik.