Romina Nikolić

- Germany -

Romina Nikolić, born 1985 in Suhl, grew up in Schönbrunn/Thuringia. Studied literature and philosophy. Since 2009, in addition to her own writing activities, she organizes readings and various literary projects, including freelance work for the Literary Society of Thuringia or being co-founder of Love Crime Books, an independent label for fanfiction, in which the anthologies RADIANCE (2017) and RAVAGE (2019) were published. Two-time prize winner at the Young Literature Forum Hesse-Thuringia, Walter Dexel Fellow of the city of Jena. She is librettist of the opera MOTHER (2021) by Giordano Bruno do Nascimento. Nikolić lives as project manager of the Literaturburg Ranis, poet, translator and editor in Jena. Her recent publication is the poetry volume "Unterholz" (Edition Muschelkalk 2023).

Out of the mist / return once again …

Meandering along Romina Nikolić’s poem “Underbrush”



See the microcosm

In macro vision

Our bodies moving

With pure precision

One universal celebration

One evolution

One creation


Martin L. Gore



Is it not so that time seems to meander along borders, ever ready to break through the fallow walls of the Limes? And is it not also so that time seems to always lie in ambush, waiting to accost us with pictures of ourselves, images of who we used to be? Or is the opposite true? Are we ourselves provocative figures, alighted from a turbulent century to drive time—or at least, what we believe it to be—before us?

If this were so, would then the iron rule of thumb fall into abeyance: that time has nothing to fear besides the ancient Egyptian pyramids… They would still be standing even if there were no people left to count the years appointed them. From the mist of existence, they bore witness to us: Those dunes and forests which could instead decide to recover from the imposition we have been.

But maybe things don’t need to go that far. Maybe we can still reflect on our beginnings and the gifts bestowed on us—return from the mists of time and remember our digressions. Much like the lyric speaker of this poem, setting the precise location of the speech act, departing from the rustling, yes, from the persistent and proverbial “underbrush” of origins, departing from biography.

Back from the mist—a voice returns, arriving in articulation at precisely the same time: It is an honor to welcome this poem by Southern Thuringian poet Romina Nikolić to MuschelkalkEdition. The text represents Volume 55 of a series which is itself undergoing tremendous changes: mourning the loss of its founder, the great Wulf Kirsten, and yet, nevertheless, still curating an imprint of this country’s literary present. 

Our epoch pulls at us, changes us, it seems these days more than ever. We are impelled to remember, to seek assurances from memory, so that we may keep the courage to go on, ever onwards. And not merely for the immediate present as a time of increasing isolation—memory, reflection on meandering and the infirmity of the years we’ve put behind us is always a necessity, a prerequisite for self-assurance—emancipation without erasure (and how should this be possible?)—but also, a prerequisite for literature. This is made plain to us through this poem, served to us so enchantingly and so exemplarily, in ‘excerpts.’

This poem gestures toward its unique origins, alongside its inspirations—Paulus Böhmercomes immediately to mind. It describes its own literary journey, speaking in visions as well as tongues: at times both clear and mythical together, at other times as rapt as it remains infinitely present. I say ‘excerpts’ because this poem never ceases to speak and contemplate at once. A bold, impressive, moving plan, exploring foundations, the search itself, the paths: departure and confinement. Yes, captivating in its chiaroscuro beauty, too. Those who experience a reading from Romina will not soon forget it.

Time, too, catches up with us in its pages, continuing on through the mirror of this elevated, yet intimate speech act, operating, guiding with the kind of “hard providence” Böhmerhimself demonstrated so brilliantly. Romina Nikolić was born in Suhl in 1985, and grew up in Schönbrunn, a landscape molded by the Itzgründ dialect—a culture of its own where the vernacular shifts from village to village, despite its own tender encounters with the wider culture of Southeast Thuringia. The lyric speaker develops, too, with a Schönbrunnerinflection of Itzgründ experience, while the author, herself, went on to study literature and philosophy in Jena, followed by a teaching position in Braunschweig, time as a project manager, and literary entanglements including work at the Literaturburg Ranis. Nikolić has received numerous distinctions for her writing, but this extended poem is her first book-length publication—a work more than a decade in the making.

In verses as far-reaching as they are finely chiseled, the author tells of people’s rootedness in alandscape, of the proverbial “underbrush” of her own origins, there at the southmost tip of central Germany. In doing so, she brings together seemingly irreconcilable things—like pop music and the melody of the Thuringian Forest—the stuff of fairy tales in disarming juxtaposition with the aesthetic of video clips. Empathy and rebellion in artful composition, sprinkled with both humor and yawning depths.

“Out of the mist / I return once again…” This opening guides the trajectory of the text across the entire spectrum of human speech, directed at a counterpart as if by way of explanation: “For you, I would dare.” Before this dialogue, there is only the articulation of solitude. In asense, we are an “individual organism,” but we cannot exist outside another’s view. And so, sometimes we construct a counterpart for ourselves, making contact with the vestiges of the ephemeral through exchange. In this poem, that counterpart’s name is Kaspar, appearing at the poem’s beginning and disappearing again on page 59.

“Underbrush” is snapshot and survey at once, gesturing toward the work that went into it, circling the motifs in Romina Nikolić’s hyper-precise, suggestive language, gyrating on an axis of its own impressions, as if churned in a giant’s cauldron, directing our vision or perhaps permitting it in the first place. The pinnacles and depths of this language move the reader, lending a bold familiarity to even those passages in dialect. And this is precisely that which poetry permits: that we find ourselves again within it—arriving, and in the clearest moments—seeing through the ‘eyes of words.’ It is a riddle and also an unfolding wonder, a world remembered and a world in transition. The word delivers it, conjures it, renders it recognizable, even as its presence is already directed onwards toward something else as it remains attached. And so, it conforms to the ancient ideal of scripture adopted by its daughter, literature. 

It is probably one of the most moving texts in which our expanding perspective on the world melds with the treasure of what has already been experienced, seen, taken to heart—an exit and a point of reflection back into those linguistic traces of the ancients—lending the text a depth and authenticity. Romina Nikolić delivers an artifice that remains in one’s memory as much so as in one’s solar plexus: The past is embedded in an eternity, in which it remains. This forms the fundament, one might say, of our striving, allows it to proceed. And it speaks to the merit of the author that she has managed to put this into words through her lyric speaker.

Is this so? The spoken word remains in time. And whoever speaks the word, remains in the passage of time. And the bird’s feet of writing—reliant, as they are on speech and pronunciation—carry them into eternity. The formative sounds of origin reverberate within them, and the world meanders along its horizons—the big as well as the small (they are, in the end, analogous).   

Time meanders, as well, along the borders, unfolding from the innermost sanctums of this poem, ready to brush against us, possibly in mild fear. What a wonderful poem: this “Underbrush,” appearing to us upon the wake of speech. It speaks to us in great poetic wealth, directing us from the wideness of the world back through Schönbrunner forests.


André Schinkel, February 2023.