Alistair Elliot (1932-2018) published nine books of verse translation, including Verlaine’s Femmes/Hombres (Anvil Press, 1982/2004), Heine’s The Lazarus Poems (MidNAG/Carcanet, 1979), Roman Food Poems (Prospect Books, 2003); and for Bloodaxe, French Love Poems (1991), Italian Landscape Poems (1994) and Paul Valéry’s La Jeune Parque (1997). He translated Euripides’ Medea for Jonathan Kent's 1982 Almeida Theatre production featuring Diana Rigg which later transferred from the West End to Broadway, and he reconstructed Euripides’ play Phaethon from the fragments (Oberon Books, 2008). His own poetry titles included Contentions (Ceolfrith Press, Sunderland, 1977); On the Appian Way (1984) and Talking Back (1984) with Secker & Warburg; My Country: Collected Poems (1989), Turning the Stones (1993), and Facing Things (1997) from Carcanet; and The Real Poems (2008), Imaginary Lines (2012), Telling the Stones (2017) and Great Games (2018) from Shoestring.
Born in Liverpool, he was evacuated with his two sisters to Florida in 1940, living for five years at the Palm Beach home of industrialist Charles Merrill, father of the poet James Merrill, while attending school in the US. His later education was at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and Christ Church, Oxford. He did various jobs after university including vegetable invoice clerk in Covent Garden market, night steriliser in a food factory, waiter, film critic, supply teacher, and actor and stage manager with the English Children's Theatre under Caryl Jenner (1957-59). He combined writing and translating (from Greek, Latin and French) with his day job as a librarian for the rest of his working life, starting as an assistant librarian at Kensington Public Library (1959-61). From there he moved to the University of Keele (1961-65), Pahlavi University, Shiraz, Iran (1965-67), and lastly Newcastle University, where he was Special Collections Librarian from 1967 until taking early retirement in 1982. His awards included a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors in 2000.
Photo: William Stafford (1989)
Books by Alistair Elliot