Author of the Week / 14 June 2023

no one is an island

Author of the Week: Germany – Berlin

See more about the poesiefestival berlin on their website.

so no one is an island
so we say
so we say no one is an island
so if we really mean it

what does that mean for the way we want to encourage and support poetry
keep it alive and kicking
which is to say how do we want to encourage and support the poets
keep them alive and kicking

what does that mean for the poetry we want to read

how porous will we let ourselves be

how porous will we let our groupings our circles our inner circles our clubs be

how many poets from
the margins
the edges
the outsides
will we allow to call themselves poets

can we even see the edges
do we even know where our margins are

how do we give permissions

how do we give support

how do we give money

how do we give care

to the others who are also not islands

A pause and a different question: How many WEs have already positioned themselves in this text about US?

There’s a we that includes an institution that will host a poetry festival with the title ‘no one is an island’. There’s a we that seems to be my own point of view, looking at something that looks like an inside from an outside that might look like an inside to somebody else. There’s a we that wants to be all the people, all the somebodies. And I can feel another we arriving, the we that all these wes will dissolve into, the we that includes all the bodies, the celestial bodies, the insects bodies, the bodies of water, the fungal networks, the bacteria.

i am swimming and i
can still smell you

so we are connected
we are connected through
the air with all of its spores and aerosols
our voices, soundwaves carried through the air and telephones and screens
our faces and gestures, mirror the neurons that respond to actions we observe in others
(is there an other)
all the other waves and neurons that haven't been written about yet
through our dreams
and our drawings
and the internet
and feet and bikes and cars and rollers and skateboards and planes and

we are connected through
our need
for others
for air
for the water we need to drink
the water that feeds the plants we need to feed on
and the sun and the earth
the water that feeds the plants that feed the animals we want to feed on
and the sun and the earth
our need for shelter
the bodies that carry us
the care that upholds us

we are connected through
the political lines drawn to divide us
death despair dictators
the current droughts and heatwaves
the coming droughts and heatwaves

we are connected through
our roots
which is to say through the people who planted and birthed us
gave us our seed starting sets on earth
through the people who planted and birthed them
through the people who nourished us
in all the ways possible
through the other people our ancestors saved
and the other people our ancestors killed

I’m not new here, reborn creation
Come and find me, sending location[1]


draw inspiration from and pay homage to yr literary ancestors

critique and challenge and reshape and rebirth and ignore and ignite the literary canon

all these hands poised over keyboards
fingers waiting for words
all these hunched backs
these crazy scribbled lines in notebooks

we forget that bodies write

we forget that we are a beautifully ordered and complete chaos

with lumps and holes and odd bits sticking out

with a compost heap besides us

or maybe that’s what we are

the compost heap[2]

so we say the human body has more bacteria cells
than human cells
so how much will we let ourselves feel and believe
that there are others in us
how much will we let ourselves be humbled by this information
that we are not one but many
that our big minds don’t run this temple
that we are all along for the ride

the bits and pieces of other human bodies
i inhale and swallow when i swim in a crowded pool
the bits and pieces of all kinds of other bodies
i inhale and swallow when i swim in a lake

I mean: even islands ARE connected, all land being only mountains rising from sea beds, islands are notable for being made of land, rock, that is, rock is notable, in general, for not floating on water[3], connected also through the waves splashing on their shores and the wind bringing spores and boats – we can’t even find an image for non-connectedness that holds up.
So we are one being, we can’t really argue with that.

the moon tugging and sloshing all of our waters

no one can escape that

we breathe the same polluted air
we receive similar messages
we brush each other’s arms and feet when thrashing through the water
we react to the quicker ones the strong loud ones
we react to the slow ones
we try to hear our own breathing

That’s one of the reasons why I don’t understand the argument to ‘save the planet for your children’ – biological children are not the only ones we are indebted to. Living on this earth is an argument and debt enough, being an aunt[4], an uncle, a fluidly gendered kin to all beings is an argument and debt enough, no need to evoke nuclear family visions.

There is piano music that penetrates the floor of my apartment, coming from the new neighbours downstairs.

the floor is a border
the music is a messenger
the timing is whenever it pops up
it is not controllable
it is highly enjoyable

There is so much suffering that I cannot hold alone.

Let us return to the edges: which gates have been put on which islands for keeping whom out, for keeping whom safe?

Whose words are bridges, whose poetry is a gate, and is it rusty, and is it locked, and is there a key?

And who gets to have a key? And how much does a key cost?

And who needs a lock? Who needs the island as a sanctuary, a self-contained ecosystem, a safe space to heal and to be born again, to rise from the foam on its shores?

And can we even see the shores? Do we even know where our margins are?

so what can we see from here

no island is an island
some gates are necessary
gusty winds may blow
we will still need to be strong

what do we do from here

we give support
part i: money

which is to say how do we want to support the poets
keep them alive and tumbling

support as in
but/and also
books websites spaces
time and enough peace of mind to write
without softening the blow
without dissolving the impulse

which in this setup still means
money dough dollar bills

who is the community what will be communal
who receives a prize for which achievement
would i share my award with you because you read my manuscript
or because you are in my manuscript
or because you are my manuscript


bite the hand that feeds you
bite it again and again
hold on with yr tiny sharp teeth when the hand tries to shake you off
hold on and keep laughing
with yr teeth clenched

we are all down here we will try to catch you

sings the choir
chirp the mice

we give support
part ii: care

Being interdependently connected doesn’t mean we all have the same experiences or horizons or capacities or capabilities. It doesn’t mean we need the same things, or want the same things, or want to be in the same space, or have a common language.

It just means we can’t take care of ourselves by ourselves[5]. It means we need the air and the fungi and the hugs.

And we need to see these connections and honour them, see the ones that are taken for granted. But/and we do not have the language or the fluid footnotes or the rituals or the stipends and awards and support systems for seeing and honouring these connections, for actually being in community.

the warmth that penetrates your skin when i lay my hand on that flat part of your lower back
and just let it lie there

the skin is a border
but actually it is a gate
that i can neither open nor close

i see your feet sticking straight up under the hospital covers and w/out thinking i hold them

So no one is an island.

So what happens when we take that idea seriously? When we truly believe that everything flows to everybody else, that everything affects everybody in some way?

Then hierarchy ceases to make sense, borders stop making sense, singularity stops making sense, poetry awards in which a jury rewards a single individual with a large amount of money start feeling really weird, and thus we arrive at anarchist thought. Which, in its most basic form, is the idea that people are equal and connected, that I can only be free when you are free[6], and the deep belief that we can organise ourselves[7], which is to say that we can feel each other.

Anarchist thought often scares people. But they forget we are chaos and order at the same time, we are comfortable with the structured chaos of our bodies and hearts and thoughts. They forget that we are already navigating highly chaotic times and our binary tools of hierarchical order and sense-making have not proved themselves helpful.

Our eyes have been scrubbed so clean by the smooth surfaces we caress so many times a day, by the smooth ideas we obsess over so many times a day.

What does that mean for the poets?

here is my hand there is yours
let’s transcend individual vision and voice
let’s challenge traditional notions of authorship, ownership, control
let’s write, publish, perform together


how much am i willing to let go of
the need to be seen as one
as that one island with the prettiest tree

will i still be loved if we are a group of islands
if we are undistinguishable
can you still see me


if there is murky muddy water between us
if there is ebb and flow between us
the moon pushing and pulling with all her might
opening and closing pathways

Poets can be the ones in the in-betweens, they can make the flow and the connections visible.

on the margins there are tricksters
living on the boundaries the borders
that are still there even if they do not make sense

tricksters that are always on the verge of toppling
of being let in of being kicked out

there are multilingual poets
always on the verge of not knowing of not being right

there are multicultural poets
always on the verge of blending in or fading out

there are multigendered poets
always on the verge of going all in of coming out

there are multi-abled poets
always on the verge of falling in or falling out

What does that mean for the poetry we want to read?

how much of your inner workings do i want to see
and to feel

how many of your tubes do i want to connect to mine

how porous will we let ourselves be

what will i let myself be touched by
printed words, muttered words, words in a text message

(i want more ideas more meat more spores)

i want readings that are fat bags full of bits and pieces
from all kinds of bodies
strings i can tug on
tracks i can follow
tracks i can learn to see
tracks i can learn to read
richly connected and linked spaces
not one person in a light
a spot not a spot
i want the woven carpet full of holes
i want the carpet
and the holes
the joy and the sorrow
that are there anyway
i want it all

i want awards that are awarded to living rooms
to the spaces where we meet and talk about poetry
where we show our pages and talk about the pages
drinking and arguing and smoking and laughing

i want books that are full of holes
to fall into to land someplace else

i want every author’s photograph
to be a mirror
every author’s bio
to quote sophie strand:
i am a compost heap

i want our many-armed websites to reach for each other
to hold their many hands

i want us all to be our own publishing houses
personal autonomous zones[8]
for ourselves and each other
and our marginalia

i want us to build our own websites and i want them all overflowing
written from places of relationship and connection
not written in fear of
judging eyes
ignore and ignite them
claim your place and fill it up
empty it
fill it
ebb with it
flow with it


be your own moon for your own waters
deeply linked with all the other moons and other waters
bodies of thought

i want to forget notions of pure people
of untouched ideas
of being proud of my words
because all words are borrowed
i want being a vessel to become a masculine ideal
also being connected being dependent being pushed being pulled
i want us
to really be able
to change each other
i want us adaptable and soft
i want us to stop hiding the fingerprints of others on our skin
and on our work
as if they were stains

i want us to feel safe in this web

[1] Iniko: The King’s Affirmation

[2]  Sophie Strand: ‘I have to begin to think about myself as a compost heap, which is very noticeably decaying and falling apart. But that actually might be a very fertile generative place to be, that I might not be sprouting stories that I get to live, but I might make myself into good soil, good compost for other people to grow something. And I think that's how many Indigenous cultures think, how am I making myself a good ancestor? How are my decisions, opening up the way for other people and beings to live?’ 

[3] From a comment here.

[4] Catherine Bush: ‘When I bring an aunt’s perspective to the land, I’m engaging in possibilities of mutual relationship, acknowledging both the old Indigenous ways of knowing this land and forms of land responsiveness that have long, mycelial strands in other cultures as well, even as extractivist industries have for centuries worked to eradicate them.’

[5] Ayesha Khan in It's time to embrace community care & let go of individualistic self-care.

[6] Mikhail Bakunin: ‘I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free.’

[7] David Graeber in Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You!

[8] Kate Strathmann in On Autonomous Zones and Cultivating a Secret Life.


Ricarda Kiel

Ricarda Kiel lives in Leipzig and is a non-binary writer, goldsmith and entrepreneur. They regularly publish on their website and they co-created the feminist platform

Ricarda is the author of three books: Kommt her ihr Heinis ich will euch trösten (hochroth München, 2019), Outfits (co-authored with Heike Fröhlich, MATERIALIEN, 2020) and Tante Alles (hochroth München, 2022).


Photo by Julia Vogel