Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine Monthly...Since December 2002   ISSN 1479-425X
JUNE 2003, ISSUE #7

Nnorom Azuonye

"...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."

When you have a subject to write about, what makes you decide that poetry and not prose will be a better vehicle for it to gain life?

RG: I never pick a topic and then decide whether I want to write prose of poetry. For me it the form that determines the content. When I want to write a poem, I sit myself down or I walk along the Zürichsee and then the ideas come up too. Of course it also happens that I come up with a sentence - but in most cases I know immediately whether this is a sentence for a short story or a poem. I just follow my intuition.

NA: How long do you carry a poem inside you before you write it?

RG: I don't really know this. I write when I feel like it but I cannot say how long my unconscious has carried it. Like I said it sometimes happens that I don't know how to continue a text. In that case I just give it time, sometimes it just takes an hour, sometimes a night or a week that is always different. 

NA: How long after you have written a poem do you leave it alone, or even forget it, before you begin revising it?

RG: Normally I finish a poem in a day and revise it the following days. Sometimes I also revise texts that are a few months old, but that is rare.

NA: Poetry in translation breaks down the barrier of language. When you see your work in a language you can't read, does it make you uncomfortable, even if you trust that your words and the contexts in which you use them survive in tact?

Translations are always problematic, especially with poems. So far I never had had any problems with translations, this is because they are new texts by different authors. I do not really identify with these texts but I find it interesting to see what the translator has made of it and how the poem is changed, what it has gained and what it has lost.

NA: What is your attitude to pay-to-enter poetry competitions?

RG: Competitions are there to promote literature that is still unknown or new. This is important because these competitions are often the only way that young authors can draw attention to themselves and critics to their texts. Most of these young authors take part in many competitions because with the masses of entries it is very difficult to win any, not least because good literature is always in the position of the outsider and controversial.

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.

Where there are too many pay-to-enter competitions it is no longer affordable for the author and also a loss-making business: many have to reckon with the fact that they will spend more on entry fees than they might receive if they win a competition.


My eConversation with Roman Graf, continued from
previous page.