Gail Holst-Warhaft

Recently published


Lucky Country is a delight. Its author, a one-time professional musician who in the 1970s toured Greece, performing with Theodorakis, has written the standard work on Rembetika. She is also an accomplished poet and translator who has written a good deal about Greece, in poetry and prose, but the opening, substantial section of her new collection focusses on Australia, the country where she spent her formative years. The poem from which the book’s title comes begins

They called it a lucky country – fortunate
to be an enormous island in the South Pacific,

a level playing field for some
to rise like my cockney father,

a boy from the East End was enough
to place him in the old country. Among descendents

of convicts and their keepers he could become
a gentleman.

The tone, relaxed, assured, wryly comic, may at first seem more suited to prose than verse; but this is to reckon without Holst-Warhaft’s adroit manipulation of line endings and stanza breaks. Think how much would be lost without the ‘turns’ of ‘Among descendents // of convicts and their keepers he could become / a gentleman.’ Such seemingly casual adjustments of voice required by line breaks operate throughout. Quite without grand-standing, Holst shows herself to be a most accomplished technician.

Now available from Amazon

Review by John Luca

Review by Peter Fortunato

The Out of Bounds Radio Show with Tish Pearlman


This collection of poetry and prose about Greece reflects the bleak state of present-day Athens and reminds the reader that there is nothing new about Greece’s suffering. Combining present observations with portraits of the Greek musicians and writers, Holst-Warhaft’s book is both a paean of praise for the music and poetry that the author first discovered in the Greece of the 1960’s, and a reminder of how much the country has changed since it returned to democracy in 1974. Having played in the orchestras of such legends as Mikis Theodorakis and Dionysis Savvopoulos, the author had a bird’s eye view of 20th century Greek music at its apogee. Translating Greek poetry and prose later brought her in close contact with some of the leading writers of the period. With the discovery of Greek music and poetry came the forging of lasting friendships with these giants of Greek culture. This eclectic compilation of poetry, prose, translation, memoir, and songs captures the enigmatic, hybrid nature of Greece, a country that has always had the ability to create extraordinary beauty out of suffering.

This is a fabulous book about humanity and vision, about the triumph of constant loss, about how— despite so much terrific coercion and persecution—through its ineluctable and passionate creativity modern Greek culture—in its Eastern Mediterranean and not European form— has repeatedly achieved outstanding levels of ingenious aesthetic production as well as sustaining and magnifying a belief in the value of political dissent; a note once amplified by the Scottish poet Byron who himself drew upon Classical and archaic models of ideal poetic liberty…

Kevin McGrath (Harvard Sanskrit Department; poet)

Now available from Amazon

Review by Luca Zanchi

Review by John Lucas

Review on SONGLFNES (ISSUE 137)

Q&A with Gail Holst-Warhaft

The Fall of Athens, a hymn to the Greeks (Nikos Konstandaras)

For interviews and appearances, contact the author at .

Poster: Reading at Yale University