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Astrid Alben is a poet, editor and translator. She is the author of Ai! Ai! Pianissimo (Arc Publications), Plainspeak (Prototype), Little Dead Rabbit (Prototype) and Klein dood konijn (PoëzieCentrum). Her translation of Anne Vegter’s Eiland berg gletsjer/Island mountain glacier received an English PEN Translates award (2022).


She has been described as ‘a new and original voice in English poetry, serious and uncompromising’ (R. V. Bailey). Her poems have been translated into many languages including Chinese, Maltese, Slovenian and Romanian and she has appeared at Literary Festivals throughout Europe.  


Astrid is the co-founder and artistic director of the arts and sciences initiative PARS. She has curated and edited the Findings on… series published by Lars Müller Publishers and curated site-specific events that are a mixture of theatre, art installation and scientific experiment.


Astrid has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship, Rijksakademie Fellowship, Hosking Houses Fellowship, Arts Council Grant and is a FRSA.


Astrid Alben is the Chair of Poetry London and Commissioning Editor for Literature in Translation for Prototype Publishing. 


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Little Dead Rabbit

During the lockdown Astrid Alben worked closely together with graphic designer Zigmunds Lapsa on Little Dead Rabbit, a book-length poem that is part adult fairy-tale, part concrete poem about a little dead rabbit the poet found on the verge of a road. 

Ostensibly a poem about death, the small corpse is equally a meditation on healing and joy. 


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Klein dood konijn


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Plainspeak Lockdown Video 
Astrid talking about her alter ego, 'Poet' and how poetry needs to be reclaimed as an art form. 

The poems in Plainspeak deal with place, ancestral ties, solitude, flight, insomnia and the embattled absurdities of daily life. In these startling poems, readers will experience Alben’s unorthodox alter-ego-thinking-out-louder approach with the same exhilaration as they might engage with art or jazz. Alben plays with formal boundaries, linguistic identity and the lyrical poetic voice, writing with rhythmic vitality and visual imagination. The poems tell multiple narratives whilst retaining the freedom of abstraction; they are supple and precise, each one an installation evoking different aspects of a particular theme.


Praise for Plainspeak:

'Astrid Alben’s second collection, Plainspeak, is a book of delicious paradoxes… shows the reader the rug while simultaneously pulling out from under them.'

'[In Plainspeak…] language itself becomes a third character.'


Chrissy Williams, Poetry London, Issue 96

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'Aiming to go slow, I took this in as one delirious whole, finding myself longing for the next, as soon as I had finished one of these exquisite pieces. Astrid Alben's Plainspeak is so fresh, unpredictable, deep, playful, and sincere in its art. A delight.'

Daniel Kramb

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'There’s something David Bowie-ish about Poet, Alben’s alter-ego and guide through Plainspeak.'

'Plainspeak is poetry of transformation.' 

'Plainspeak shows us [that] the beauty of language lies in its motion, the impossibility of fixing words…'

'Alben has a great time upending convention and conformity. In playing with language thus, Alben reclaims the radical possibility of reinventing ourselves through new and surprising language, which, she shows us, can be done just by speaking in the clearest, plainest form.'

John Petre, SPAM zine

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‘The reader gasps at the spliced, fizzing language and dark comedy of Alben’s limber couplets. The unstill persona tussles with an intrusive daimon-companion “Poet”, moving allusively through the blood and ballet of 100 years of European history while preoccupied with the everyday tasks of living, enjoying, jarring against a life.’

Vahni Capildeo

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‘Astrid Alben’s poems occupy a text-transcending space that is part dance, part art installation, and part astrophysics. An heir to European experimentalism as much as to John Berryman’s Dream Songs, Plainspeak is a multi-vocal poetry: unpredictable, elegant and wholly original.’ 

Kathryn Maris

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‘Alben’s lines move at the speed of a sent text, the speed of light ­– they plainspeak to our current condition... you finish the book in seeming seconds, then start again... track the voice and The Poet as they try to outmanoeuvre each other in a tight race to the right-hand margin – and beyond...’

Matthew Caley

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‘But hey! I like these – very neat, and very cool...’  

Julian Stannard

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‘I love these poems: the formal and the imaginative premise are both incredibly original and thought-provoking, and work beautifully in fusion.’

Jane Draycott

Ai! Ai! Pianissimo

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Ai! Ai! Pianissimo

Arc Publications, 2011

Intensely visual, erotically charged and linguistically adventurous, her poems explore love and life with deft humour and poise. Belonging is difficult but the impulse to connect remains as powerful as ever.

Ai! Ai! cover.jpg

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Dead Little Rabbit

Two translations of poems by Anne Vegter

The second instalment of Prototype’s annual anthology: a space for new work, open to all and free from formal guidelines or restrictions. Poetry, prose, visual work and experiments in between.

Try to be better

Dead Little Rabbit

A multidisciplinary anthology foregrounding experiment and process. Try To Be Better (ed. Sam Buchan-Watts & Lavinia Singer) consists of original commissions from a diverse range of writers, artists and thinkers responding to prompts W. S. Graham left himself in notebooks and letters. Astrid's poem 'Dead Little Rabbit', with Zigmunds Lapsa on design.

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The Best British Poetry
The Best British Poetry

One of the Guys

The Best British Poetry presents the finest and most engaging poems found in literary magazines and webzines over the past year. The material gathered represents the rich variety of current UK poetry. Each poem is accompanied by a note by the poet explaining the inspiration for the poem.


Plainspeak, Collateral Damage, Happiness, Stormy Night

PROTOTYPE is an annual anthology of new work published in July each year. 

The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry
The Valley Press Anthology

Once More

Prose poetry is at the cutting edge of contemporary writing, freeing words from the bounds of traditional poetic grammar and bringing the magic of verse to flash fiction. In this ambitious, ground-breaking anthology, Valley Press showcases new work from a diverse range of UK writers

Wretched Strangers
Wretched Strangers

Five Ways of Belonging, The Other Country 

IN RESPONSE to surges of violent British nationalism and political paranoia around borders, and to related social and ethical crises, JT Welsch and Ágnes Lehóczky have assembled an anthology to mark the vital contribution of non-UK-born writers to this country’s poetry culture. Wretched Strangers brings together innovative writing from around the globe, celebrating the irreducible diversity such work brings to ‘British’ poetry. 


The book is published by Boiler House Press to commemorate the anniversary of the June 2016 EU Referendum and in solidarity through struggles ongoing and to come. Proceeds will be donated to charities fighting for the rights of refugees.

Original Plus Dub
Original Plus Dub

Sash Windows

This is remix; destructive construction; it is, at times, a little bit mad. But there is a strange beauty that lies within the frenetic energy of it all – a beautiful madness within the random that reveals itself as you excavate further and more deeply into the material. Reading the collection, therefore, becomes an exploration there is little way to adequately do justice to how exciting reading the book is; partly because it seems we have been so worn down by the workings of a publishing industry so risk-averse that so many new books are essentially just copies of previously commercially successful ones. It’s refreshing, essentially, to read something that isn’t a prequel, sequel, reboot or celebrity memoir.


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Findings on Light

Findings on Light

Light is one of the most essential elements for the existence of life on earth. It is the strongest and fastest form of energy. We all depend on it. But what is it when we see light? How do we see it and what can it do?

Findings on Light is an exploration of light featuring the work of more than fifty artists and scientists who shape the way we look at the world today. 

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Findings on Elasticity

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Findings on Elasticity

Findings on Elasticity features the work of artists and scientists whose binding interest is elasticity. Their findings range from the quirky, humorous and beautiful, to the mind-bogglingly complex and disturbing. 

Elasticity is the sound of a piano string being struck hundreds of times without going out of tune, but also the movement of economic markets, a way of looking at how we build our urban environment, the suppleness of a dancer’s limbs or a trampoline in the back garden for a piglet to jump up and down on.

Findings on Ice

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Findings on Ice

Findings on Ice features the work of artists and scientists whose binding interest is ice. Their findings range from the quirky, humorous and beautiful, to the mind-bogglingly complex and disturbing. 

Ice is the greenhouse effect and rising sea levels, but also the cold stare across the aisle, the crux of a play, the muscles of a dancer before the first movement, the silence between the notes, a German railway company and a substance that holds no fossils. It absorbs sound, reflects heat, and we eat it with a little sugar and cream whisked in. 

Findings on ice.jpg

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Gigs and Festivals

Gigs and Festivals


Cafe OTO, Dalston, London, 27 March 2022

Prototype is a new series of collaborative, interdisciplinary events inviting publishers, writers and artists to come together and share their work. This first iteration is co-hosted by Bricks from the Kiln, with readings and performances from Astrid Alben (poet/translator), Paul Buck (writer), Rebecca May Johnson (writer), Lucy Mercer (poet) and Holly Pester (poet).




Launch of Island mountain glacier by Anne Vegter

Online, 9 March 2022

Prototype invites you to celebrate the launch of acclaimed Dutch poet Anne Vegter's Island mountain glacier, her first full collection to be published in English. Translated by long-term collaborator Astrid Alben, the book was recently granted an English PEN translates award. This event will be hosted by Prototype published Jess Chandler, with readings and conversation from the author and translator.


Salon A: Astrid Alben, Nancy Campbell, Rose Gibbs & Sophie Herxheimer

Online, 21 April 2022


To celebrate the publication of Little Dead Rabbit, a new book by graphic desinger Zigmunds Lapsa and poet Astrid Alben, please join us for an evening of readings and performances.


Meet the Poet

Online, 12 January 2022


“Maybe poetry is the only home we have where we feel at home.”

Home Stage presents: a deep-dive into the latest poetry from Astrid Alben and Emily Critchley. Astrid and Emily’s mutual fascination with foreignness; ideas of belonging and not belonging; and the refuge of nature all find a home in their remarkable writing. Tune in to hear poetry on environmentalism, gender equality, the social impacts of Brexit, and more.


Construction Constriction

The European Camarade, St John on Bethnal Green
European Poetry Festival, London 3 July 2021 

Astrid Alben in collaboration with Simona Nastac.

The Vale presents: Astrid Alben
Online, 25 June 2020 

Live reading for the Vale. 

Lunar Poetry Podcast

Online, 5 January 2020

Astrid Alben reads her poem 'Words To Say It'.


Malta Mediterranean Literature Festival, 9 July 2019


Plainspeak launch event

Hatch, Homerton, London 21 November 2019

Plainspeak invitation_ digital.jpg

Prototype will be launching the first book in their new poetry list – and my 2nd collection, Plainspeak. There will be an amazing lineup of readers, with Kathryn Maris and Caroline Bergvall reading alongside me, plus screenings of three specially commissioned animations by filmmaker Zuzanna Pedrasik, based on poems in the book.


The launch is taking place at Hatch, a lovely cafe/bar in Homerton (about 30 seconds walk from the overground station). There will be food and drink and books for sale.


It would be wonderful to see you there to celebrate the book’s publication and launch the Prototype poetry list into the world.

Each November Ó Bhéal presents the Winter Warmer Poetry Festival, a weekend of poetry featuring around two dozen poets, some of whom perform to music. .

The festival includes readings, poetry-films from Ó Bhéal’s International poetry-film competition, and collaborations with other artists and artforms.

Days of Poetry and Wine

Putj, Slovenia 2014

Cheltenham Poetry Festival

Cheltenham, UK 2015

Poetry International Rotterdam Festival

Rotterdam, Netherlands 2013


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Interview for MaltaToday

MaltaToday newspaper, 2019


Plainspeak Animated

Animations, 2019

Plainspeak Animated

A collaboration with artist Zuzanna Pedrasik.

Eighteen Seconds to Impact: Observations From a Moving Train

The Times Literary Supplement, 2019

Last week I boarded an early morning Eurostar train to Brussels. I was on my way to Amsterdam. I reached King’s Cross St Pancras Station with plenty of time to spare. Even so, the queues for boarding trains to Lille, Brussels and Paris trailed into the main hall. I played an old guessing game to keep me distracted: is that migrant, tourist, commuter, day-tripper, long-distance lover, criminal on the run or runaway? We all shuffled and foot-nudged our baggage through customs to a loop of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. A teenager with a backpack strapped to her spine sat at one of the pianos that now grace so many railway stations around Europe, thumping the keys. Her polypropylene reusable Blue Dopper water bottle wobbled on the lid... [read more]

Astrid Alben explains how only art and science together can help us understand complicated phenomena like moonlight.

London Laser 21: Astrid Alben

Central Saint Martins, 2017

Astrid Alben reads from her poems and explores how science has influenced their construction.


London LASER is a program of evening gatherings that bring artists and scientists together for informal presentations and conversation with an audience. Free of charge and open to the public, London LASER offers stimulating talks and encourages lively discussion in an informal academic setting.


London LASER is hosted by University of the Arts London (Central Saint Martins MA Art and Science and The Lens) and University of Westminster (Broad Vision art/science research and learning project), in association with Leonardo/ISAST (the International Society for Art, Science and Technology). LASER is a project of Leonardo® /ISAST.


Alben reads a selection from Plainspeak, shares a poem by Valérie Rouzeau – translated from the French by Susan Wicks – and discusses how her work as a translator and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Findings on… influences her own poems.

Moonlight in a Box

Animation, 2015

A collaboration with illustrator Eleni Kalorkoti.

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Island mountain glacier
Prototype publishing, 2022

Anne Vegter trans. Astrid Alben


Island mountain glacier by acclaimed poet Anne Vegter is tumultuous, humorous, erotic, enigmatic and vulgar in equal measure. Written in an elastic, playful style that levels the playing field of what kinds of images carry poetic weight, the poems inhabit an incongruous space between everyday distractions and intimate, at times uncomfortable or disturbing questions.

Vegter became the first female Poet Laureate of the Netherlands in 2013. This collection was awarded the prestigious Awater Poetry Prize in 2011.

In Other News

Island mountain glacier review on Modern Poertry in Translation 

I know that is Poetry
Corrupted poetry, 19 May 2021


''If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry.''
Emily Dickinson

In response to Emily Dickinson’s words, Corrupted Poetry created a series of short, informal recordings where writers and artists speak about how they know that is poetry, and read a poem, or an extract, by another writer which exemplifies their thoughts.''If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry.'' Emily Dickinson

In response to Emily Dickinson’s words, Corrupted Poetry created a series of short, informal recordings where writers and artists speak about how they know that is poetry, and read a poem, or an extract, by another writer which exemplifies their thoughts.


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