Jonathan Golding is a poet, dramatist and essayist. Darkly Bright Press is pleased to publish Telegonos: A Tragedy in Verse. Below, we offer a short conversation with its author. Visit his website. Additionally, Golding has written a pair of essays for Darkly Bright:
The Most Beautiful Melody in World
Please tell us about your history and motives for becoming involved with drama. Which writers most influence you?
I was very involved in theater during my college years, both acting and directing. I was fortunate enough to work with many immensely talented people, including David Flaten at the University of La Verne and the late Georgij Paro, the head of the National Art Theater in Zagreb. There are many things that a performance can convey with immediacy that a text may not. However, I think Telegonos works both as a poetic text and a theatrical piece that could be mounted and performed.
T.S. Eliot once wrote that Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world of literature between them. And both these writers have contributed a great deal to my poetic vision. Of course, in the context of theater, Shakespeare would be uppermost in my mind. But the play is also my love letter to the great tragic poets of antiquity such as Sophocles, Euripedes, and Seneca.
What characteristics of the medium interest and and inspire you to write in the language of drama, and in the mode of verse drama, in particular?
A writer’s role is to be a servant to his story and be sensitive to how the material can best be shaped. The original legend of Telegonos struck me immediately as a tragedy. So it seemed quite natural to approach it as a tragic play.
At the time, I found myself very drawn to writers who were both storytellers and poets. It was much more common in previous eras to combine the two. Telling a story in verse adds a certain weight to the action that is absent in prose. While it is undoubtedly true that modern writers have successfully explored tragic themes among ordinary characters, I think that the genre works best when the characters are larger than life. The choice of verse drama then seemed to flow quite organically from this approach.
Strikingly, Telegonos is a rich tapestry of history, theme, mode, literature and language. How and why did you come to develop this complex mosaic for modern readers?
I’m sure some will see Telegonos as anachronistic or consider working with ancient forms to be a rejection of the present. However, it would be more accurate to say that I see my work in dialogue and in tension with the literature and thought of our modern era. If modernism and postmodernism have taught us anything, it is that a text may take any form that the writer feels will best convey their meaning. And while I find much to praise and learn from modern writers, we often fail to take advantage of the richness of past expression.
For the reader, all times are present. We may stroll down a street in Athens and converse with Socrates or ponder over an ale with Kit Marlowe. Since this wide world lies open to us, why should we restrict ourselves to imitating our contemporaries? I hope with Telegonos and other projects that I am working on to blow the dust from some older forms and make them new.
Without a doubt, the play is a profoundly theological work. Without unveiling the mysteries, are you able to discuss the importance of word and symbol in Telegonos?
To paraphrase Hermann Hesse, a poetic text can be understood in many ways, but perhaps the writer is not the best voice to articulate its meaning. A knowledge of my faith is not required to appreciate the universal themes of love and loss that seem to me at the core of the story I wish to tell. However, as an Orthodox Christian, my work revolves around spiritual ideas, and if readers look for these, I think they will be rewarded. Telegonos searches for his father, but perhaps, in the end, the Father that he truly finds is the one that we all seek.
One thought on “A Talk with Jonathan Golding”
Well said! Thank you for the insights into your training and thought process.
This is a beautiful piece of work.