Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine Monthly...Since December 2002
JUNE 2003, ISSUE #7
"I condemn hierarchies in religion or philosophy.
I am convinced that everyone is responsible for
his actions and has to find his own philosophy,
meaning, ethics and morality."
Nnorom Azuonye (NA): Hello Roman. Thank you for making the time to talk to me. Let's begin this conversation by quickly going over your background. May I ask when and where you were born, and where you received your education?
Roman Graf (RG): I was born on the 14th of April 1978 in
NA: And where do you currently reside?
RG: I live in
NA: Do you currently work as a full-time writer or are you involved in another occupation?
RG: Sometimes I work part-time and write, at other times I work full-time like I am doing at the moment as a member-recruitment officer for Greenpeace. This will make it possible for me to take time off, travel for a while and concentrate on writing.
NA: Would you kindly say what other work you did before that?
RG: I started with an apprenticeship as a lumberjack, then I cared for disabled people and later worked as an editor for a weekly newspaper Das Stadtblatt Now I have left journalism for literary writing, however, sometimes I also still write for the magazine Der Tages-Anzeiger on a freelance basis.
NA: What inspired you to start writing poetry?
RG: Life is inspiring. It is all about coming to terms with what happens and to voice these thoughts.
NA: You have said that life inspires you. Would you say that you are naturally philosophical or are your attitudes to life and what happens guided by a religion, or any other organised school of thought?
RG: Of course I have been influenced - by the culture I grew up in. But other than that I am an atheist and I do not adhere to any specific school of thought. I condemn hierarchies in religion or philosophy. I am convinced that everyone is responsible for his actions and has to find his own philosophy, meaning, ethics and morality. Everyone has to bear this burden. This is what I do.
NA: Are there any poets that have influenced or continue to influence your poetry?
RG: The Swiss writer Max Frisch, the Austrian writers Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard and Bettina Balàka and also Paul Auster.
"I can only speak for myself and
for me writing is to demolish walls.
The readers begin to see the world differently,
they are plunged into a different world
an alternative world."
"I think that it is wrong that we have been
trying to psychologise everything recently...
When everything that we do is motivated by
deficiency and we know this then our
self-perception will soon be that of inferiority.
Man is reduced to nothing…"
But your question about the purpose to my writing asks for an explanation: how is the writer's motive relevant for literature? I do not know my reasons and I think that it is wrong that we have been trying to psychologise everything recently. The psychologist Alfred Adler once said that the more ambitious one is in a certain field the larger his inferiority complex will be in that same area. This statement may be correct, but what use is it? When everything that we do is motivated by deficiency and we know this then our self-perception will soon be that of inferiority. Man is reduced to nothing and can only define himself in his actions and achievements. And we are getting better and better at this: we have great careers, fast cars and build huge cities and funfairs. Man himself is becoming less important - if it continues like this, he will soon have disappeared. But to return to your question about these four types: the answer lies in literature. The reader of literary works does not need to ask why it has been written.
"...the responsibility for cultural development
is slowly returned to the authors themselves.
Society retreats and the circle of authors
is self-centred and has to provide for itself."
Then there is the fact that young and unknown authors normally don't have much money - and because it is not often possible to make a living from the sale of books, prizes and grants are an important source of income.
But there is a more important aspect to this question: Today most of the competitions in
These entry fees eventually lead to a two-class literary scene: only those who have enough money can establish themselves in literary business. To give a quick summary: pay-to-enter competitions only promote the self-exploitation of authors and therefore I would not say that they promote literature at all but destroy it.