Poet builds scale models out of his books

Abu Dhabi International Book Fair: After Frank Klötgen found himself with a stockpile of self-published books, he started using them to build models of famous buildings.

"Even though … I'm not trained in architecture, I thought: 'why not?'" says the poet Frank Klötgen. Courtesy Frank Klötgen
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The German poet Frank Klötgen adopted a novel approach to help shift the huge stack of unsold books that once sat on his living room floor.

In 2011, Klötgen self-published his anthology of poetry Mehr Kacheln (More Tiles, a German colloquial term for "hurry up") and 1,250 hardback copies of the volume were delivered to his Berlin apartment.

While reasonably well-known in his homeland - Klötgen was lead singer of the underground rock band Marilyn's Army and is a respected figure on the poetry scene - it didn't translate into a rush on sales. So he began to seek other ways to rid himself of his stockpile.

"I posted a photo of [the books] on the internet and asked if anyone knew what I should do with them. Soon after, someone suggested that I try building something," recalls the 44-year-old poet.

"Even though I've never done this before and I'm not trained in architecture, I thought: 'Why not?' and started to make models of landmarks out of the books."

He began by constructing a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then each week he posted photos of his latest model on his website, which included monuments such as the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal, as well as fictional settings such as Harry Potter's Hogwarts school.

Word of Klötgen's creations began to spread. Social media users shared them prodigiously and he was the subject of a local TV station news feature. It also helped him clear his mountain of unsold books.

"It worked as a publicity thing because the book started to sell well," he explains. "Now I only have about 100 copies left."

News of his exploits reached Abu Dhabi, where Goethe Institut - an organisation dedicated to promoting German culture and language - invited him to this year's book fair.

As well as partaking in a poetry reading event, he intends to build replicas of the Emirates Palace hotel and Qasr Al Hosn using his books.

Lack of time, rather than accuracy to architectural detail, is his main concern, though.

"I'm going to have to be very quick, as usually it can take me a few hours to make the models," says Klötgen. "But here I will only have one hour. So I can't promise it will be amazing."

Nevertheless, if the venture helps stimulate interest in his literary works, he is game for such a challenge.

"You know, when I first started, I was worried that building these models would distract from my poetry. But I found that it has actually helped publicise it.

"Possibly I am the best-selling poet in the whole of Germany now, so I really can't complain."

Frank Klötgen "builds" Hosn fort at 5pm on Thursday and will "construct" Emirates Palace from 3pm on Saturday.


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