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Walter W. Hölbling


First Language(s): German
Second Language(s): English


Walter W. Hölbling is the former chair of the American Studies Department at Karl-Franzens-University in Graz, Austria. He has also published two print volumes of poetry in English — “Love Lust Loss” (2003) and “Think Twice” (2006) — together with Gabriele Pötscher. In 2019 he published his first collection of German poems, “Gemischter Satz, Gedichte.”


What was your favorite book as a child?

Guess it depends when you think childhood ends ... I remember “Struwelpeter,” “Hatschi-Bratschis Luftballon,” Wilhelm Busch’s “Max & Moritz,” sagas and fairy tales by the brothers Grimm and H. C. Andersen, Deutsche Heldensagen, Griechische Heldensagen, and later, of course, Karl May’s fictions about North America and Arabia. I also remember that in my early-mid teenie years I started reading systematically through the holdings of our town library — adventure, science fiction, thrillers, detective fiction, etc.

Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?

Around the age of 14-15, a highschool friend and I started writing funny verses about our class's special events — ski week, some celebrations, "Wandertag" etc. and presented them at various occasions — everything still in German, of course. That versifying ended with the end of highschool and metamorphosed 12 years later into the urge to give shape to my first-time experience in the USA in 1977, where I spent 4 months of research at the University of Michigan.

What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?

Guess it depends on definitions of adventurous/thrilling .... is it adventurous to drive home a friend at night on someone else's motorbike without a driver's license, or, on another occasion, still without a driver's licence, deliver a VW bus full with rather tipsy girls and guy to their respective homes...? Some years later, a rather thrilling experience was when, skiing up at the Reitereralm for the first time and now knowing the slopes, I tried to catch up with my friend and, going pretty fast, when suddenly seeing that the crossing over that creek was too far to the left to still take that curve, I decided to jump, with my inner eye already seeing myself stuck in the snowy river bank like one of these silhouettes of cartoon characters... I managed to land evenly on the other side but then could not stand another dip and crashed, but no harm done. I guess the most frightening experience came with my children; my son, at the age of 5, had complained of stomach pain, and the morning after the doctor had not found anything serious I looked into his eyes and all alarm bells started ringing when I saw his kind of empty stare. I took him to the children’s hospital, the receiving doctor also was not convinced — but two hours later the little one was undergoing an emergency operation because of an already burst appendix. Poor kid spent 10 days in the hospital. And a couple of years later his younger sister during a summer vacation in Croatia caught some infection and was taken to the local hospital with over 40 degrees fever for 3 days, my wife and I took turns staying by her bed until the fever broke... I am not sure those events fill the categories of your questions, but they certainly stick in my memory. Maybe "adventurous/thrilling" applies better to the 1981 camping trip across the USA from East to West (& back in motels...) in a secondhand late 1978 Ford Country Squire (see pic) with my then wife and our two kids (4 & 6 years) on the occasion of a year of research at Stanford University. I had decided that THIS is the opportunity for a first-hand experience of the extension and diversity of the USA (including "fly-over country") , and it was worth the effort, nor only when traveling through the endless prairies of the Mid-West, the Little Bighorn Mountains,Yellowstone, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon, Big Sur, etc, and up and down the West coast in the course of that year, south to San Diego and north to Seattle. Stanford also was a scholar's delight, the resources were marvelous, and one could meet writers and politicians in lectures and workshops — e. g. Alan Ginsberg, John Irving, or N. Scott Momaday (whose office I inherited for my stay as he had just moved to Arizona).

Do you listen to music while reading or writing?

I very often have all kinds of music on, independent of what I am doing, sometimes also when writing poetry; but it is not that I turn it on especially for writing poetry, and at times I also turn it off because it prevents me from ordering my thoughts.


spring has come
Issue Spring '21

Supported by:

Land Steiermark: Kultur, Europa, Außenbeziehungen
U.S. Embassy Vienna
Stadt Graz