Sonja Harter

- Austria -

Sonja Harter was born in Graz in 1983 and lives in Vienna. Since 2001 she has been publishing in literature magazines (i.e. „manuskripte“, „Lichtungen“, „kolik“), anthologies (i.e. „Jahrbuch der Lyrik“, S. Fischer; „Lyrik von Jetzt Zwei“, Berlin Verlag; „Stimmenfang“, Residenz Verlag) and at ORF Radio.

In 2005 her book of poetry „barfuß richtung festland“ came out, being followed by „einstichspuren, himmel“ in 2008, both Leykam. Her third book of poetry „landpartiestorno“ was published in 2016 (Edition Keiper).

Sonja Harter was awarded various prizes and scholarships, such as: „Literaturstipendium der Stadt Graz“ (2005), „Frauen.Kunst.Preis“ (2006) and „Wiener Autorenstipendium“ (2010).

She works as an arts editor at APA (Austrian Press Agency).

Undoubtedly Harter belongs to the especially interesting voices of contemporary poetry. This is her starting point, her literary basis, from which she originally operates. And from which she investigates a wide field. Field research up to „landpartiestorno“ – what a brilliant terminus. The respective poem is the opener of the poetry book of the same name, which has been published at Edition Keiper in 2015.

It is nearly impossible, not to be caught by the associations, which are evoked by this creation, somehow refusing to be stuffed in the box of neologisms.

It is a poet’s word of purest originality and of utmost perfidious abyss. It is also the opener of the chapter titled „burnout hundewiese“.

Sonja Harter aims at those who confront themselves with her view, her interpretation of the world. And she aims precisely.

As a consequence, in 2015 she was the first artist being invited to Kunsthaus Graz as „border crosser between literature and visual art“ in the course of the „Open House“-programme:


„This series focuses on the opening of the house to different artistic and social directions. For a period of one year linguistic interventions take place. The role of the institution as a medium is focussed, being newly interpreted and questioned (…) Harter is interviewing Kunsthaus Graz with a lot of irony: spatially, linguistically, social-critically“ (according to the website of Kunsthaus Graz).


Kunsthaus Graz can be only confirmed that the selection of this „border crosser“ has been the best choice.


Since 2001 Sonja Harter is publishing, having to cope with the gap between the professional style of a journalist and her own distinctive authentic rhythm. Not to talk about these „remaining things“, generally titled (family) life.

It is maybe no coincidence that the last chapter in „landpartiestorno“ titles (or does it have to be called „overwrites“?) „burnout literaturbetrieb“ …


So far Sonja Harter has published three poetry books, which were highly acclaimed by critics. In autumn 2016 she published her debut novel „Weißblende“ at Luftschacht publishing house.


„From the linguistic point of view it seems interesting when, like in the given case, poets turn into novelists. The level of expectation is much higher than the other way round. When reading Sonja Harter’s „Weißblende“ one unmistakably is guided by poetically fragmented verbal imagery.“ (Markus Böhm)


That’s not surprising at all, but it is marvellous. And, honestly speaking, it has to be that way, when a poet, who deservedly is considered as an expert and „afficionada“ of the oeuvre of Friederike Mayröcker, takes the blade to buckle apart anew the often folded steel of meanings, then puts it together again and uses it with renewed pungency. And she is also not scared in choosing the topic, which – ranging from growing-up to abuse – faces socially delicate fields. The opposite is the case.


And like in her poem the writer is not aiming at provocation because of the sake of provocation, is not aiming at irritation by looking at sales – Sonja Harter de-scribes. For example the often miserable polish of the world, which daily gets more complicated and wicked, then being sold as complexity. She de-scribes according to her poetology. In the flow of her language, a river is never presenting a smoothly whispering surface, but searching for an individual way full of wake and undercurrent.



while you, in your best

gear, practice elegantly

swimming against the current,

my left eyelid

becomes inflamed.


always the left one,

shading the eye

that’s trying to keep

you in view.


but one can only see

your backstroke

from the river



© of translation – Renée von Paschen