F. L. Light is a poet, translator and dramatist. He is a prolific writer, and Amazon lists 65 of his works. He also writes online, and two of his blogs can be found here:
I recently had the opportunity to interview F. L. Light, and the questions and answers are reproduced below.
1. I first came across your works when you submitted to the Inverted-A Horn back in the 1980s. I was impressed by your control of the metrical form, but a little taken aback by your use of unusual vocabulary, much of it from latinate origin, or older English forms. These were the sort of words that one could easily find in the OED, but not in the ordinary parlance of even the most educated speakers. Another aspect of your writing was your veneration of the older, pagan gods, mostly of the Greco-Roman pantheon. All this led me to wonder: what is your educational background? Are you conversant in Latin and Greek? When did your learn meter and from whom? How did you come by the knowledge to write as you do? Are you trained in the classics?
When I was in the 2nd grade, my class was escorted to the nearest public library. I can remember the first two books I borrowed. One was a children’s version of the Iliad with many illustrations, and the other was a biography of Shakespeare, which described him reciting to the actors his latest play, Macbeth. In the sixth or seventh grade, my friend, Bailin, and I would interrogate each other about Greek and Roman history and culture.
My teacher of Greek in college was an expert in Homeric formulae. I had four semesters of Homeric Greek and one of Herodotus. I learned to translate the Iliad and how to scan dactylic hexameter, the epic meter of Homer. The college library had most of the Loeb Classical Library, volumes of which I often borrowed, especially Plutarch, Plato, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes.. James Loeb, who founded that series, was a partner in Kuhn, Loeb, the Wall Street firm, which supported E H Harriman when he reconfigured Union Pacific.
2. Some of your works are original poems and some are translations. Could you expound on the different poetic processes that go into making a translation as opposed to writing an original work? For instance, I enjoyed listening to your Antigone as read by Jesse M. Bernstein. How much of that work is your own and how much is Sophocles? Do you translate word for word or line for line or sentence by sentence? Or is it more like scene for scene?
Translators are supposed to be faithful to their authors, not to distort them, especially the classics. Translation is usually line by line, though sometimes by sentence. Other translators are not fit for the poetic cogency of Sophocles which is lost in translation. Abiding by the lines of Sophocles, I would do no less poetically than he while remaining faithful to his Attic Greek.
In my historical dramas I often rewrite 19th century documents into my dramatic idiom. It is akin to translation but the text is much enhanced. This is what Shakespeare does with his sources. Sometimes I consult Congressional hearings, which in the 19th century were much more well-spoken than they are now.
3. Your works manifest a true veneration of the ancient gods. Are you yourself a pagan or is it just that you are able to enter into the spirit of your subject matter so completely that it seems that way?
But for religion I would not have translated the Iliad. Homer understood the communicative furtherance afforded to humans by the intelligence of signs. I never cared for the Wicca people, a movement fit for illiterates or free versers. Now if I were to identify myself with any proposed philosophy, it would be with the Objectivists, although Rand’s esthetics are not mine.
4. I recently came across your sonnets of The Julianic Manifest. In them you praise the Emperor Julian who reestablished paganism as the state religion, overturning Constantine’s establishment of Christianity. How do you feel about establishment of religion in general? Do you think the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights is correct in forbidding it?
The Julianic Manifest is volume five of Cleopatra’s Kingdom of Idolatry, wherein classical effigies and painting represent the ideals of ancient Greece. Both pagans and Catholics worshiped their ideals in art.
I can condone the classical establishment of paganism for the esthetics. But establishment implies a central government of impositions and political impostures. Caesar advised Augustus to use religion for validation, although religion is invalid in itself. That was the beginning of the dark ages.
5. I know that you have read Sophocles and Shakespeare and Ayn Rand. What others have you read? What authors have most influenced your thinking and your writing style?
Homer, the first recorded poet of Hellas, I might set above Shakespeare. In college I read the complete works of Lord Byron, John Milton, Chaucer, Dostoeyevsky, H L Mencken, and Friedrich Nietzsche. I had German for two years to study Nietzsche’s texts. His esthetics are much better than Rand’s. My books of couplets are somewhat Nietzschean in style.
From Chaucer to Tennyson, the English have produced the best literature in Europe.
I have also translated three plays by Aeschylus, and the Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes. Prometheus Bound, performed by Jack Nolan, is now offered on Audible.com.
6. You have published many books which are available on Amazon and now on Audible. What form of publication do you like best: print, ebook or audio file? Explain why.
As I have more time to listen than to read, I prefer recorded books. The spoken word is of more instance and impetus than the written word. In the ancient world authors like Herodotus and Homer were recited to audiences. Some households would have servants whose only duty was to recite books.
I use ebooks for research.
7. What do you see as the major problems facing people in the United States today? Can writers and poets make a difference in addressing these problems? If so, how?
The major badness in the US is the Robber Media, which robs Americans of their true history, their proper language, their acuity in discernment, their normal ethics of earning, their manhood or womanhood, and their individual properties, material and private. Once a person is stupefied, he is easily robbed, defrauded, and enslaved.
Reason’s dissolvers are your dizziers,
As apprehension is reduced to blurs.
Most folk assimilate delusions, not
Defying an excited idiot.
Some of the Works of F.L. Light