The Next Big Thing, for those who don’t yet know, is a way to network with fellow writers and to find out a bit more about what they’re working on. The idea is fairly simple. The writer answers a set of questions on his or her blog one week, and then invites five other authors to answer the same questions the following week. They in turn invite five more.
R J Dent is a poet, novelist, translator, essayist, short story writer, blogger, researcher and creative writing tutor. His published works include a novel, Myth; translations of Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil & Artificial Paradise; of Le Comte de Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror; of Alcaeus’s Poems & Fragments; a Gothic novella, Deliverance; a poetry collection, Moonstone Silhouettes, and various stories, articles, essays, poems, etc, in a wide range of magazines, periodicals and journals, including Orbis, Philosophy Now, Acumen and Writer’s Muse.
R J Dent was invited to take part in this by Catherine Edmunds.
What is the title of your new book?
Alcaeus: Poems & Fragments
How did you choose the title?
It’s a fairly functional title – it tells you exactly what it is without any frills. I could have had something more poetic, such as Wine and Exile: The Poems & Fragments of Alcaeus, but I was after immediate clarity. It’s certainly very clear what the book is; it’s Alcaeus: Poems & Fragments, Translated into English by R J Dent.
Location: The narrator of the poems lives (for the most part) on the Island of Lesbos (Mytilene) in the Aegean Sea.
Character and theme: There is a whole cast of characters, from the tyrant Pittacus, to the Lesbian hermit, Omnocales. The poems deal with all of the major themes, from love, politics, exile, wine, to the beauty of Greece.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
Although I wear a lot of literary hats, I’m primarily a novelist, a poet and a translator. I’ve translated several French classics: Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil, and Le Comte de Lautreamont’s The Songs of Maldoror, and I wanted my next translation to be something from the classical era.
Once I found out that Alcaeus was considered to be as good a poet as his friend and rival, Sappho, I wanted to read his poems. After discovering he wasn’t available in English, I set about translating all of his available poems.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a modern English translation of classical or ancient Greek poetry. So Classics/Poetry would be the library label.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Poetry collections don’t generally make good films, but Alcaeus: Poems & Fragments has a great cast of characters, including exiles, tyrants and lovers, so Sam Rockwell could play Alcaeus, Kirsten Dunst could be Sappho and Ben Cross could be Pittacus.
Who has published your book?
Circaidy Gregory Press, an independent publishing house based in Hastings, England, owned and run by Kay Green.
What other books would you compare Alcaeus: Poems & Fragments to within the genre?
It’s similar in its intention to Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments of Sappho and If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My initial inspiration was the discovery that Alcaeus was considered to be as good a poet as Sappho, but was not available in English. I felt the injustice of that: far too many good writers vanish into obscurity. I read Alcaeus’ poetry and realised how good a poet he was. I wanted to try and rehabilitate him – make his poems and fragments available to English readers.
What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
It’s the only English translation of Alcaeus’ Poems & Fragments. It could be an ideal Christmas present for a classics scholar or historian. A recent review stated: ‘R J Dent’s gem of a book is a real find’, which I though was quite a nice thing to say about it, especially as it’s the only English translation of the poems and fragments.
What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?
This English translation of Alcaeus: Poems & Fragments from ancient Greek into lively modern English is R J Dent’s attempt to rescue Alcaeus’s ethereal poetry from undeserved obscurity.
R J Dent’s official website is http://www.rjdent.com/
R J Dent’s author facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/rjdentwriter?v=wall
The following writers are continuing the tour. Do visit their blogs in due course to see their responses to the questions: