This interview first appeared in The Black Aether, a Hungarian online magazine dedicated to the life and works of Lovecraft and his followers. I’m one of the editors of the site, reading short stories, doing interviews, but mostly doing translations of articles, essays and anything really. It was also thanks to The Black Aether that I first tried my hand in poetry translation last winter when I translated Lovecraft’s darkly festive poem, Yule Horror. It’s silly that I haven’t done poetry translations before because I am a poet AND a translator, but there you go, sometimes I’m also a bit slow in putting 2 and 2 together. I’ve just ordered Ashley’s collection, (you can also grab yourself a copy, here) so I’m sure some more translations are coming up in the future.
Here is the interview and of one of my translations
1.Let’s talk about poetry first. Many people think that nowadays nobody reads poems, that poetry is old-fashioned and stale with no relevance to our lives. What’s your opinion about these views? How has the role of poetry changed compared to the 19th century?
A lot of people still view poetry that way, though they couldn’t be more wrong about poetry not having any relevance today. Poetry is an extension of our emotions and a way to express them. I don’t think there is a time where poetry is not relevant. Nowadays, it seems that poetry has been swept aside more in favour of prose than it was in the 19th century.
2. You like traditional forms. Do you have a favourite form? What are the advantages and disadvantages of traditional (rhyming) poetry compared to free verse?
I like the heroic form, iambic pentameter but I’m also very fond of the French Alexandrines. An advantage with traditional and rhyming verse is that it is easier to remember. They stick out because of their lyrical nature and their rhythms. A disadvantage might be in writing them and making sure everything fits neatly into a chosen form.
3. I also prefer traditional forms, that’s why I was shocked when on a poetry seminar our tutor told us to forget rhymes because all the good rhymes have already been used and overused in English, so we should move towards free verse. Have you ever received similar comments or have people tried to dissuade you from using traditional forms?
I have had a few people dissuade me from writing formal poetry. I’ve had some tell me that rhymes distract from the story or that most formalists force the meter and such.
4. In his essay, ”The Verse Libre Epidemic” H.P. Lovecraft heavily critises the free verse form. In your opinion, did free verse bring a positive or a negative renewal to poetry? Was it time for a new verse form?
I think free verse made it easier for people to write poetry and express themselves in a way they couldn’t have before. But you’d be surprised at how many poets say that they write poetry but don’t read it. There are more poets out there than readers of poetry and that’s sad. I feel that free verse was positive in that it got people to write more poetry.
5. You use powerful images which create a strong and distinct atmosphere, the reader can see everything clearly before their mind’s eye. Do you have a favourite artist (classical or contemporary) whose work inspires you?
My favourite artist is Luis Royo and I’ve been inspired by a lot of his work. He depicts a lot of strong female warriors and that has always resonated with me.
6.Occult and mythological references often appear in your poems. How did you find this inspiration? Do you have a favourite myth that had influenced you in some way?
I read a lot of fantasy, mythological, and occult books when I was young. I was obsessed with my dad’s collection of The Enchanted World Series and reread those books as often as I could. The Water Spirits book, in particular, is a favourite, which is why you’ll find a lot of sirens and sea creatures in my poetry.
7. Both your first volume (Diary of a Sorceress) and the upcoming one (Diary of a Vampyress) feature a strong (and somewhat menacing) female figure and many of the poems talk about a dark, feminine sensuality (for example, On Amaranthine Lips). What role does femininity play in your writing?
Femininity plays a huge role in my writing. Each diary features a strong, female lead character and nearly every poem is loosely connected to her in some way. Each female lead brings with her a certain theme that will be covered in the diary. The Sorceress summons the feelings of dark magic and horror and the fantastical but leaves room to delve in deeper into her character throughout the book in each entry. The Vampyress evokes Gothic tropes of horror and blood and sensuality and throughout her diary you’ll get to know her more by what’s being presented in each entry.
8. Let’s talk a little about the traditions of weird literature: if you could have dinner with three writers/poets (dead or alive) who would they be and why?
Edgar Allan Poe, J. R. R. Tolkein, and Stephen King. Edgar, so I can listen to his poetic teachings. J. R. R., so I can just listen to him speak on Norse mythology. Stephen, so I can ask him why he hasn’t made a poetry collection yet.
9. H. P. Lovecraft wrote more than 300 poems. How much do you know of his poetry and did he have any effect or influence on your writing?
I am a big fan of his Fungi from Yuggoth poetry. I would say that his fiction provided more influences on my work than his poetry. Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, for instance, inspired me to write Atop the Crystal Moon and then later, On a Dreamland’s Moon.
10. Do you have a favourite poem from Lovecraft? If you could choose only one of his poems that gives a good picture of his poetic world, which one would you pick and why?
There are a few excellent poems I enjoy by Lovecraft but I would say that XXXV. Evening Star is up there from his Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle. The Fungi from Yuggoth sonnet cycle would sum up a lot of his themes and subject matter, but if I had to choose one, I. The Book would be a good choice as any from the cycle. It hints at strange things brought from the seas, crumbling books of elder lore, monstrous secrets, and madness.
11. Last but not least: what advice would you give to aspiring poets?
Read as much poetry as you can and study it. Find poetry you enjoy, figure out why you enjoy it, write it, and then practice, practice, practice.
Thank you very much for your answers and I wish you a lot inspiration and success in your writing!
A szerető boszorkája
Bőre alatt nap sugára,
szeme ékkő, Hold kék párja,
ragyogó és sokat sejtet.
Mennyei csók ígérete,
kastélyába csábít engem.
Eksztázis a tekintete
így hát eladtam a lelkem.
Szerelmi bűbája szívem
gúzsba köti, mint sok kósza
virág illat, ami libben,
ha nyílik a belladonna.
Csillag ő és a vad fénye,
a Hold sötétebb oldala
Labirintus hívó mélye,
tüskés vörös rózsafa.
Ha valaki kegyvesztett lett,
bőre pokol tűzzel lángol
sötét holddá válik szeme,
fog villan ki dús ajkából.
Én szerető; ő boszorkám,
vágyam tárgya. Én tudom csak
visszacsalni eltűnt Holdját
s szép aranyát tűz sikolynak.
The Sun’s gold gleams beneath her skin,
And gives its warmth with every touch.
Her eyes are gems, the Moon’s blue twins,
Which sparkle, barely hinting much.
A promise of sweet Heaven’s kiss
Forever lures me to her hold.
Her gaze upon me is pure bliss,
And that was how my soul was sold.
Her love, a spell, is wound around
My soul, like lingering perfumes
That emanate from floral crowns
Of belladonna all abloom.
She is the star and its fierce fire,
The Moon and its deep darkest phase,
The red, red rose of the great briar,
The center garden in the maze.
When those in favor fall from grace,
Her skin sears with Hell’s hottest flame.
Her eyes grow dark with new Moon’s face,
And lips give way to fangs’ quick aim.
I am her lover; she, my witch.
She, my desire, for only I
Can coax the Moon back from the pitch,
And the fine gold from flame’s last cry.
Ashley Dioses is a poet from Southern California whose work has appeared widely in print and online venues, including Spectral Realms, Weirdbook, Weird Fiction Review, and HWA Poetry Showcase.
You can find Ashley’s blog here.
The interview in Hungarian here.
More poem translations here.