GRIMM, Ulrike Sandig

Illustrations for a poetry collection | GRIMM by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

Published by Hurst Street Press in 2018, GRIMM is a poetry collection from Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder. Referring to The Children’s and Household Tales of the Brothers Grimm, this collection reanimates the dark side of the Grimm tales, using them as a backdrop for a very contemporary European concerns: war, migration, the rise of the Right.

I was commissioned to produce a series of illustrations that responded to the poetry. I chose to focus upon the dystopian world within the Grimm tale; a world that appears naively whimsical, but hides a darker flip side; a world where humans are half beast and nature has a malevolent agency.

Ulrike Almut Sandig started publishing her poetry by pasting poems onto lamp posts in Leipzig and spreading them on flyers and free post cards. A multi-media artist, her performances include radio plays and audio books of poetry and music. She holds an MA in Religious Studies and Modern Indology and an MFA from the German Literary Institute in Leipzig. To date, two prose books and four volumes of poetry have been published to wide acclaim. 

Karen Leeder is a writer, critic and translator. She is Professor of Modern German Literature at New College, Oxford. Website: Mediating Modern Poetry


Grimm clearly makes inventive contributions at a time when both authors and readers feel the need to revisit the foundational narratives of our cultures, nations, and worldviews. In Sandig’s hands, the fairy tale acquires the potency to explore the tragedy of being expelled from a state of innocence due to war and conflict, and thrust into the bitter world of experience. Her choice to retell the Grimm tales is apt because it allows the collection to invite often uncomfortable parallels between a culture’s common imagination and what ethnic and gender identities are disadvantaged within that imagination. Her poetry connects fascism with misogyny through the haunting figure of the pater familias, and it embodies the consequent violence and anger that the oppressed female subject feels within their ruptured language.

- Elliot Koubis, Asymptote