Guests Profile Events History Application
Contact / Imprint
Social Media Other Programs
Michèle Métail was born in Paris, France, in 1950. She studied German and Sinology and completed her doctorate with a thesis on Chinese lyric poetry. Together with her husband, the composer Louis Roquin, she was a cofounder of the association "Les arts contigus", which is dedicated to bringing together literature, sculpture, music, dance and installation. Métail is a writer, academic, performance-artist, photographer and translator. Up until 1998, she belonged to the movement OuLiPo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle – Workshop of Potential Literature), which experiments with (Lettrist) formal constraints. Métail’s poetry is understood as an attempt to sound out time, space and sound. An essential element is her investigation into sensual restrictions in topographical texts, for example in the volume "Gehen und Schreiben" (2002). Her works, which cross over the boundaries of the individual arts, are presented mainly in exhibitions, readings and performances; many poems have not been written down. Métail understands the text as a score and the process of oral reproduction as the final creative stage of writing, as in her main work "Compléments de noms. Poème infini", for example, which takes up the language of the world. It was begun in Vienna in 1972 and has been continued as a work in progress since then; the never-ending poem now has a total of more than 20,000 verses. In 2006, "2888 Donauverse" were published in the Edition Korrespondenzen for the first time – as a "diary" of Métail’s linguistic discoveries.

"2888 Donauverse" is representative of Métail’s working method, which is both playful and formally consistent: inspired by the possibility – in German – of combining several words with one another to form a new word, rather than the genitive constructions that are used in Romance languages, ("Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän"), she composed a long poem consisting exclusively of nouns, articles and personal pronouns: "le capitaine de la compagnie des voyages en bateau à vapeur du Danube ..." Line by line, a new combination is added, while the last one of the preceding verse is dropped, so that the poem is altered and continued like an endless tape.

1587 Der Außenminister des Staates der Demokratie der Bürger des Steigs des Bügels (The foreign minister of the state of democracy of the citizens of the bar of the stirrup)
1588 Die Politik des Außenministers des Staates der Demokratie der Bürger des Steigs (The politics of the foreign minister of the state of democracy of the citizens of the bar)
1589 Der Strauß der Politik des Außenministers des Staates der Demokratie der Bürger (The ostrich of the politics of the foreign minister of the state of democracy of the citizens)

The 2888 verses correspond to the 2888 kilometres of the Danube. Both the associations of the verbal material used and the changes in the way that it is rendered – sometimes flowing regularly, then gushing rapidly or quietly splashing – refer to the geographic and cultural changes in the river on its way from Central Europe to the Black Sea.

After she had rejected publication on paper for many years, recently Métail has published in various formats, particularly in the genres of the poetry book, the travelogue, the philological study and the photo book. Loyal to the adage that "launching the word into space represents the highest stage of writing", she has also presented her work on around 200 reading tours in a large number of European and other countries.

During the summer semester 2005 she taught as the Samuel Fischer Guest Professor of Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Publications in German translation
Gehen und Schreiben. Gedächtnis-Inventar. Gedichte, Fotografien, Erkundungen. Translated from the French by Elfriede Czurda. With an epilogue by Herbert Wiesner. DAAD-Series Spurensicherung 10. DAAD, Berliner Künstlerprogramm, Berlin 2002
2888 Donauverse (aus einem unendlichen Gedicht). Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna 2006
Published by DAAD
Gehen und Schreiben. Gedächtnis-Inventar 2002
Events by DAAD
Klängen, Bildern und Texten

Erkundungen von Michèle Métail (Frankreich). Band 10 unserer Buchreihe SPURENSICHERUNG

Performance - Lesung


Guest Professors
Arts & Media
Artists in Residence at PIK
Short Invites