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vienna poetry school


the vienna poetry school (sfd) was founded by writers, poets, performers and experimental language artists as an independent artists' project in 1991. it started its public work in april 1992, with the organization of 12 classes and an international symposium on the topic of the “teachability and learnability of literature”.

the poetry concept oscillates between “writing” and “multimedia”, between “analog” and “digital”, between “native language”, “foreign language” and “multilingualism”.

sfd does not offer any formal education in a classical sense. instead, it organizes instructive encounters with renowned authors. the focus is on practical exercises.

along with analog and digital classes, the poetry school organizes symposia, concerts, readings, discussions, round table discussions, lectures, exhibitions, presentations, and multimedia performances.

topics include written poetry, oral poetry, experimental poetry, audiovisual poetry, visual poetry, acoustic poetry, concrete poetry, performative poetry, poésie sonore, beat poetry, prose, pop music, songwriting, film, video, new media, installations, and performances.  

the following are some of the authors and artists who have worked at sfd:
australia: nick cave; austria: h.c. artmann, wolfgang bauer, ann cotten, falco, christine huber, christian loidl, christian ide hintze, gert jonke, anna kim, markus köhle, sigi maron, friederike mayröcker, hanno millesi, felix mitterer, ernst molden, roland neuwirth, fritz ostermayer, rosa pock-artmann, julya rabinowich, peter rosei, tex rubinowitz, gerhard rühm, robert schindel, ferdinand schmalz, julian schutting, stefan slupetzky, heinrich steinfest, marlene streeruwitz; bulgaria: ilija trojanow, mara mattuscha; canada: christian bök; chile: daniel saavedra aguirre; columbia: fernando rendón, angela garcia; denmark: inger christensen; france: henri chopin; germany: blixa bargeld, augusta & kalle laar, boris lauterbach, christiane rösinger, rober schoen, konstantin wecker; guatemala: humberto ak’abal; indonesia: ayu utami; russia: andrej bitov; somalia: waris dirie; switzerland: sibylle berg, dorothee elmiger, heike fiedler, nora gomringer; usa: allen ginsberg, anne waldman, ed sanders, anne tardos; vietnam: huynh khai vinh; and many more!


nora gomringer, gert jonke, judith nika pfeifer
gerhard rühm, ann cotten, nick cave
(c) alain barbero, claudia prieler, andy urban

the sfd archives consist of numerous audio and video documentaries, which present the authors at work in the classes and on stage.

in 1997, sfd pioneered the teaching of virtual classes on the internet - for a while teaching and learning took place exclusively in the virtual realm (see also - in german >> archiv)

the sfd was a major contributor to the founding of the escuela de poesía (medellín/col) and the institute of language arts - instituts für sprachkunst (university of applied arts vienna). furthermore, the sfd is a founding member of the eacwp – european association of creative writing programmes. >>

sfd is a non-profit organization (supported by the division arts and culture of the federal ministry for arts, culture, civil service and sport & the cultural department of the city of vienna).

artistic director: fritz ostermayer, author, musician, performer, radio editor & producer

initiator of the sfd and director until 2012: christian ide hintze, lyricist, performance & multimedia poet


“i’m interested in your efforts to found a poetry school in
vienna. if it is done so that the teachers themselves have accomplished
some ‘notable work’ of poetry, it can be a useful
community with practical results in knowledge & inspiration.”
allen ginsberg, 1991



the last school of poetry of any significance in europe, namely the school of sappho in mytilini, on lesbos, some 2,600 years ago, as well as the jack kerouac school of disembodied poetics in boulder, colorado, usa, founded in 1974 by allen ginsberg and anne waldman – however, sfd also takes special account of local traditions: the viennese coffeehouse, “wiener gruppe” (vienna group), “wiener aktionismus” (vienna actionism), visual, acoustic and concrete poetry, and language philosophy.


“the goal of the vienna poetry school is to build a kingdom of
poetry. the first step is to develop a school for poetry, including
indonesia. sound poetry will be the main material to be
taught, especially how sound poetry can overcome language
semantics. it is like a mantra, an abundance in the oral tradition
of indonesia.” ayu utami, 2003 on the occasion of an sfd-class in indonesia



autonomously adminstered institute for teaching and learning of literature; a place for poetological communication; an academy for research into letters and uttered sound; archive for poetico-pedagogical documents (audio, video and written); laboratory for the transformation of literary impulses into community events; welcome center for travelling poets.


“the schule für dichtung has given new dimension to the
possibilities of infra-structure poetics, which to my mind is a
poetics of creating a space available […] essentially to all who
would want to join a work-in-progress, a temporary autonomous
zone that has an ethos that runs parallel […] to the
mainstream.” anne waldman, 2012 on the occasion of 20 years vienna poetry school


main focus / activities:

  • discussion of the teachability and learnability of literature
  • multimedia & multilingual aspects of language art
  • the linguo-political situation in europe
  • organisation of digital classes
    (virtual academy since 1997)
  • analog classes
  • readings / performances / lectures / exhibitions
  • publications of books, cds, videos, websites and the magazine sfd&
  • written-, audio-, video-archive: collection and documentation of thematically relevant publications


work areas:

oral and written poetry, audiovisual and digital poetry, drama, oral and written prose, performance, installation(s), exhibitions


faculty: (biographies in german, some in english)



approximately 60% female – 40% male; appr. 80% austrian – 20% from abroad

participation numbers since 1992:
- analog classes: appr. 3,100 participants (appr. 10% professionals – 50% experienced authors – 40% amateurs)
- online-classes: appr. 7,850 participants
(as per end 2021)


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builders of poetry worlds.
vienna poetry school. video conversations with christian ide hintze
a film by tina bara (68 min), sfd 2013
dvd (german with english subtitles) + booklet (in english, 34 pages)

ide hintze on the history of the vienna poetry school, about eros, the street, sappho, embers, the coffee house, writing in the water, etc. anecdotes, amongst others, on allen ginsberg, christian loidl, henri chopin, h. c. artmann, blixa bargeld, falco, friederike mayröcker.

>> info

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20 years vienna poetry school –  anniversary texts
texts by anne waldman (usa), marlene streeruwitz (aut), gerhard rühm (aut/ger)
bilingual publication in english and german

a documentation of the celebration evening on 2 june 2012 at kasino am schwarzenbergplatz in association with burgtheater wien

>> info

 - - -


nick cave with his students (class at sfd in 1998)

4 poets + 1 scientist: robert schindel, roland neuwirth, marlene streeruwitz,
rudolf muhr, ide hintze (from left to right)    © vienna poetry school / andy urban

gerhard rühm teaching "visual poetry" (2009)   © vienna poetry school / harriet nachtmann

bob holman, ide hintze, sainkho namtchylak (2010)   © vienna poetry school / andy urban

seasons with allen ginsberg. an evening with gordon ball (usa) at sfd 2014
josef schützenhöfer, fritz ostermayer (sfd), gordon ball (from left to right)
© vienna poetry school

anne waldman during her laudatory speech at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the vienna poetry school at kasino am schwarzenbergplatz, vienna
© rainhard werner/burgtheater
>> 20 years vienna poetry school - anniversary texts