© Selena Magnolia

Johanna Lier  [ Switzerland ]

Johanna Lier was born in 1962 in Küsnacht. After graduating from the Rudolf Steiner School in Zurich, she trained as a bookseller and began studying acting at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Bern in 1984. She later completed a master’s degree at the Zurich University of the Arts in 2013.

She became known early on for her acting work in film and the theater, especially for the role of daughter Belli in Fredi Murer’s »Höhenfeuer« (tr: Alpine Fire). She eventually turned to literature, became editor of the weekly newspaper »WoZ«, and began publishing poetry in 1992. Her collections focus on the precariousness of a life on the move, the normative structures that are disturbed, and the uncertainty and violence that arises as a result. Her rhythmic and associative lines highlight fleeting moments in a world that seems fragile but turns out to be surprisingly stable.

Lier’s plays »Stoffe« (2005; tr: Materials) and »we always bang bang. sorry for that« (2007) premiered in Switzerland. Her first novel »Bring mir Jagdfang« (tr: Bring Me the Spoils of the Hunt) was published in 2016 and is about a small family that wants to start a new life in the European expatriate milieu in Lagos, Nigeria, but fails because of the lies they tell. In her latest autobiographically inspired novel »Wie die Milch aus dem Schaf kommt« (2019; tr: How the Milk Comes Out of the Sheep), the story of refugees stranded in eastern Switzerland on their way from Ukraine to Chile is linked to 19th-century European industrial and migration history.

Since 2007, Lier has also worked as a lecturer in creative writing at the Lucerne School of Art and the JULL — Junges Literaturlabor — in Zurich. Longer research trips have taken her to Iran, Nigeria, Chile, Ukraine, Israel, Argentina, Greece, and Tunisia. From 2012 to 2017, she was president of Suisseculture, the umbrella organization of professional cultural and media organizations in Switzerland. She is also involved in various cultural and political projects, including the »Watch the Med Alarm Phone«, an emergency hotline for travelers in distress that advocates safe and legal escape routes to Europe.

Lier’s poems have also appeared in magazines and anthologies and have been translated into Persian, Arabic, Italian, English, Spanish, and Bulgarian. She has received numerous awards for her literary work, including the Werkjahr prize from the City of Zurich and the Dienemann Foundation literature prize. Her work has also been supported by scholarships; among others, she was the Air – Artist In Residence in Krems, Austria, in 2017.

She lives in Zurich.




liebe und tod im tiergarten
Edition Poesiexpress
Zürich, 1992

engel kommen von vorne
Edition Poesiexpress
Zürich, 1994

Edition Poesiexpress
Zürich, 1995

irrt irrt das ohr. Irritationen
Edition das fröhliche Wohnzimmer
Wien, 1999

lieb an land schaften
Edition das fröhliche Wohnzimmer
Wien, 2001

wenn die rose geht siehst du keine büsche
Edition Howeg
Zürich, 2001

mas’s nights
Profuge Kunstprojekt
Zürich, 2004

so what in englischer sprache ich denke so what
Zürich-Bagdad, 2007

Bring mir Jagdfang
Zürich, 2016

Wie die Milch aus dem Schaf kommt
verlag die brotsuppe
Biel, 2019