with Gerald Jatzek:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Gerald: I started to write a book when I was eight. When I had finished the second chapter, we formed a soccer team, and I forgot about my plans.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Gerald: That’s a difficult one. I tried to learn from Kavafis, Mayakovsky, Ritsos, Eluard, Parra and others. And, well, Kafka is not an influence; he is the godfather of modern literature.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/art? Have any travels away from home influence your work?
Gerald: I come from a working class neighborhood in Vienna, which means I grew up bilingually in Standard German and Viennese dialect and its different occurrences in the form of sociolects.
Traveling was especially important when I was young and felt like suffocating in the conservative Viennese atmosphere where the elders suffered from amnesia regarding the atrocities of the Nazi era.
Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Gerald: My poems for children.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist/poet/writer?
As I mentioned, I come from a strictly working class background. Accordingly, everybody I knew either worked (even mothers of five) or was out of work. I heard about artists and writers in school, but they belonged to another world.
I finished secondary education thanks to state grants – which were given to the likes of us for the first time in Austrian history after the social democrats were elected in 1971.
After school I studied to become a teacher and worked in what nowadays are called McJobs. It all changed during my second year. In June hundreds of activists squatted in the buildings of a former slaughterhouse and converted them into a complex of counterculture. Two months later I traveled overland to Afghanistan, India and Nepal. In Kathmandu I decided to make a living as a writer and journalist.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Gerald: Guitar (mandolin, ukulele) playing; reading; etymology and languages; evenings with friends, wine, and music; traveling; relaxing in Greece.
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Gerald: I have nothing to promote right now. I’m working on a manuscript with very short stories and a book with Viennese anecdotes (both in German). A collection of poetry for children in English is nearly finished, but I have no idea where to publish it.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem or song of yours? Any favorite piece of art?
Gerald: From “The sea” (work in progress): ” seven trillion lines of code, this poem / hijacked by guerilla currents”
Octavio Paz: “I search for an instant alive as a bird” (“Busco una fecha viva como un pájaro”)
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Gerald: A lot of people who don’t know. Sometimes, I overhear a half-sentence from a conversation on the street, or I read a line from a torn poster, and it’s a powerful writing prompt.