ICOA board member Gail Holst-Warhaft has translated The House with the Scorpions: Selected Poems and Song-Lyrics of Mikis Theodorakis, featuring the work of one of modern Greece’s most important musical figures. “I can’t think of anyone who has suffered more for his writings and music than Theodorakis,” Holst-Warhaft says.
In Greece, Mikis Theodorakis is a national icon. He is the country’s most famous composer, and a figure who has spent his life struggling against injustice and oppression in his own country and elsewhere. He has been jailed and tortured for his beliefs, continuing to produce a stream of music and poetry despite his suffering. It is time that his own poetry was recognized as an important element in his creative life. In an age where Bob Dylan can win a Nobel Prize, and Leonard Cohen’s lyrics are treasured as poems, it is also time to recognize the importance of the song-lyric as a literary form.
Gail Holst-Warhaft, who has spent many years working with the composer as a musician, biographer and translator, has translated all of the composer’s lyrics and combined them with Theodorakis’s virtually unknown poems. Together, they reveal a man whose passion for poetry was the wellspring of his creativity. The book presents Theodorakis’s poems and lyrics in Greek and English. This makes it clear that the translations do not obey the rhyme-scheme of the originals but try to maintain rhythmic patterns that are satisfying to the English ear. This book is not only a collection of Theodorakis’s poetry, but the record of an extraordinary life.
About the author and translator
When someone asked Mikis Theodorakis where he got his inspiration for his music, he answered: “It’s very simple. I never thought of my music as anything but a way to clothe Greek poetry.” Theodorakis is known to the world as a composer. To the English-speaking world, unfortunately, he is known principally for his film scores, particularly the score of Zorba the Greek, and a few of his popular songs. To the Greeks, Theodorakis is the man who combined the greatest poetry of their country with his own prodigious melodic gifts to create a river of unforgettable songs. Few think of him as a poet, and yet he wrote fine poems, some of which became the lyrics of his songs.
Gail Holst-Warhaft was born in Australia. Besides being a poet she has been a journalist, broadcaster, prose writer, academic, musician, and translator. In the 1970’s, while researching a book on Greek music, Holst-Warhaft performed as a keyboard-player with Greece’s leading composers, including Mikis Theodorakis. She has published translations of Aeschylus, and of a number of modern Greek poets and prose-writers. Her poems and translations of Greek poetry have appeared in journals in the US, the U.K., Australia, and Greece. Her most recent book is Lucky Country (Fomite, 2018).
For interviews and appearances, contact Gail Holst-Warhaft at email@example.com