Wednesday, April 17, 2013
“I DRAW STRENGTH FROM CREATION” POTIS KATRAKIS is interviewed by Zacharoula Gaitanaki
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Dr. Katrakis, tell us about you in short. Where are you come from, what education you have, what was your occupation?
Potis Katrakis: I was born in
the village Demonia of Laconia, situated on the coast of the Laconian Gulf, a
few kilometres from Cape Malea. My parents were farmers and I am the third of
five children, two sisters and two more younger brothers. I attended High
Scholl of Molaoi, the first classes, the seventh class in the 5th
High Junior School for Boys of Piraeus and the eighth class in the 6th
High School for Boys of Athens. I finished the Law School (University of
Athens) in 1954, served as a reserve officer of Signals. In 1958 was appointed
attorney in Piraeus. I dealt with practiced law until 1991 and from them until
the end of 1998 served as the Head of Legal Department of the Municipality of
Piraeus. Now I’m retired.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Many people wonder if you’re close or distant relative with our great actor Manos Katrakis. What ties you with him?
Potis Katrakis: It’s a usual question, when I mention my name because he was a famous actor. We’ve got the same surname but there is no family relationship between us. We have common roots and origins, since my ancestors started from Crete (as Μanos), went to Cythera and then to my village. I had met him and we had close friendly relations, he called me “nephew”. As far as I know him I noticed that he was a man of moral principles, ideology, put top priority on his artistic evolution, he was a bohemian, erotic and spendthrift. And so he was always penniless and in debt. Our common points with
Manos are that we started from the countryside, poor and we are self-made men. We had tenacity and dedication to work and our goals, less costly always a priority for our ides and in the second place the money, we liked the erotic and political adventures and the artistic creation. Politically he belonged to the Left and I in the Centre.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Since when is the beginning of your literary pursuits and what kind of?
Potis Katrakis: My pursuit with literature began in 1963, when things seem to be improving in my job as a lawyer, I made a living and I had time and I was in the mood to do something different. So I started writing my first novel “THE PERJURER” and I published it in 1966. followed by my novels: “THEY WHO DIDN’T RETURN” in 1970 and “WINDS OF VIOLENCE” in 1973. Since 1974, I was dedicated to politics and the time remaining for Literature was limited to a minimum. So I was obliged to abandon the novel that requires time and I engaged myself with the other literary works less time – consuming. Seeing that, I published in 1975 my first collection of short stories entitled “CRIES OF LIFE”. In 1976 I published my first poetry collection entitled “GUESS” and in 1977 my first play entitled “IN THE COUNTRY OF THE SUN”. Since that time I was very busy, at the same time, with my job as a lawyer, politics and literature. Until now, I have published 85 literary books (novels, short stories, essays, plays and poetry).
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Is it necessary to have talent in order to deal successfully with the art?
Potis Katrakis: I answer this question at length in my essay entitled “POETRY, THE BIG PATIENT”. In summary I regard as talent, in the art, the pleasure that the artist feels when dealing with the art of his choice. When the artist plies only his art out of pleasure, not intended purpose and in any financial or other benefit, has talent and will go ahead. But to give a great and valuable work is needed other than pleasure (the talent) and theoretical study, great training and high intelligence.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: You wrote essays about poetry. What are the major problems of it? Is good poetry written in our days?
Potis Katrakis: I have written three essays about the theory of poetry. The reason for my involvement was the people’s questions and my own too. The questions about what is and what isn’t poetry today, why is it written and what serves the incomprehensible modern poetry, how comes its privileged award and promotion from official and non-cultural organizations and the conflict on issues of poetry theories. As I researched to find the truth, who is right and who is wrong. I think I ended up with some correct conclusions, which I express myself in the first two and specially in my last essay entitled “POETRY, THE GREAT PATIENT”.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Is versification poetry?
Potis Katrakis: As I write in my last essay, the versification is one of the first forms of poetry that its roots reach Menandros, Sappho and many other past and contemporary poets.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: The kinds of poetry have their own friends. Greeks love the traditional or the modern poetry?
Potis Katrakis: Any form of poetry of course has its own fans that support it and so can survive. Especially the modern poetry is a part of the official state such as the Ministry of Culture and publishers. However, a lot of supporters has the understandable poetry (traditional and post modern),followers of which should reach about 95% of the total and the incomprehensible (modern) poetry is around 5%.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Poetry is an utopia?
Potis Katrakis: Poetry is one of the most basic and necessary forms of speech and has nothing to do with utopia. On the contrary, it achieves basic needs of life such as the creation of songs and helps the social and cultural doubts could be created only as of the form of incomprehensible and impossible to interpreter modern poetry. The poetry of dreams and the subconscious. But this form, which in my opinion should not be called poetry, but something else, is not an utopia, because the dream and the subconscious which records are a reality and pieces of our lives. And in any case, it is a difficult kind of writing that a small number of poets can deliver on its original form.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Tell us some contemporary poets that you distinguish for their work.
Potis Katrakis: There are many poets who made their mark in all forms of poetry, but it would be dangerous to mention names, because they are a great number who I do not know and I’ve wronged them with the omission of their names.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: You are a member in a few of Greek literary Societies. How this participation helps an author?
Potis Katrakis: I am a member of the National Writers Association. If you are a member in a club and in smaller groups, certainly helps you to exchange views on matters of common interest, sending of demands against the State, etc. however, instead of the numerous and disparate associations with their imperfections, I think it would be preferable to have a sector only in the form of a legal entity of the public law, such as the Bar Association, the Medical Association, etc.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: We talk a lot about suspect literary competitions. What does a prize offer to a writer? Could it be that an award is only a paper on the wall?
Potis Katrakis: Certainly the literary competitions help to distinguish some works and some writers with a considerable work. But this is in any case the relative and not the absolute. Because there is the human weakness that distorts the competitions. Because very often the awards have not the evaluative criteria, but political, though acquaintances and personal relationships from fixed competitions that are not disclosed and are not known, a thousand and one among other things. So a work that has been awarded, can never be a criterion that it is better than another work which has not got a prize. There is a presumption in favour of the winner, but that is always a relevant and a recallable presumption.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: A great number of books published each year. Is this positive or negative? Does the quantity has a strong impact upon the quality?
Potis Katrakis: I think that the publication of many books, in principle, it is positive, because it covered more topics and more areas of examination. And because through them will be known the excellent and of timeless value books. But all the others books will have add a little stone to the structure of culture.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Greeks are friends of beauty, they have sense of proportion (“Moderation in all things”) and of high causes. Have we lost all sense proportion?
Potis Katrakis: The truth is that lately we have lost the proportion of material goods and the comfortable life generally at the expense of those positions that lead to birth rate, a rising birth rate, our offers to the public, local and the national interest, in the enforcement of the laws of the State, in the acquisition of material possessions and other goods with unorthodox means, etc. And we have many areas to re-examine our behaviour.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: I have some personal questions too. If I ask you to sketch Potis Katrakis with three words, what words would you choose?
Potis Katrakis: Restless, dreamer, gentle, patient. In matters of principle and ideas I’m uncompromising too.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: What gives you strength in your life and what fills you grief?
Potis Katrakis: I draw strength from creation and I feel sadness with everything that stands an obstacle to creation.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: What role played and plays love in your life? You have written many poems entitled “Love poems” (“Erotica”). What’s the subject matter of these poetry collections?
Potis Katrakis: The main pleasures in life are food, drink, a cigarette, the emotional love and sex. The food I was not able to enjoy throughout my life on account of the illness of my stomach. For the same reason I was deprived of drinking. Since many years I did not even taste it. Cigarette I didn’t smoke and when I tried it I felt distaste. So my only pleasure it was love and especially its emotional element. This gave me the opportunity to spend a big part of my work in love. Six (6) collections of poetry in post modern form entitled “EROTICA” – “LOVE POEMS” No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 and 15 collections of poems, lyrics traditional poems (50 poems each book), 750 poems in all, a collection with 13 erotic short stories and two novel with the prevalent theme the erotic. While scattered reports there are in all my other work.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: I have the feeling that the people of our days do not love truly. They confuse sex and love, they afraid to express their feelings, they are unhappy although they have all the conditions to be happy. What do you think?
Potis Katrakis: I can say that today there is in the general public a wild freedom, which has simplified some things and some people’s behaviours, which once seemed as taboo. And in that freedom and wealth of relationships found and the profusion of true love and more the love for the pleasure of sexual desires. And I mean what happens in the so called civilized European and American place because we have the countries in Asia and Africa, where are in other conditions.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: How did help you the imagination? Is it prohibitive for creation and originality the routine?
Potis Katrakis: I think the imagination was the quarry from which derived the raw material for the creation of my work. As a second structural material there were the experience and adventures of life together with the imagination built the building of literature. Great source of my experiences, apart from the daily routine, is the law and policy. The routine simply deprives of you the time you need to concentrate and write. Certainly it is a source which you draw building materials. Of course, another rich source for drawing building materials was reading, but the time I could dedicate was always limited.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Did you encounter difficulties – and what – in publishing and circulating your books? Since the first edition (in 1966, the novel “The Perjurer”) until now, how has been changed the situation?
Potis Katrakis: Except the few books that the publishers undertake to publish at their expense, for all the other works there are great difficulties. However, by comparison with the οld days by reason of progress of printing with computer and other modern mechanical means, things have been improved, And the cost compared with the previous period has been diminished considerably.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: How often do you go in literary and other events? Are you interested in monitoring? Do you have friend writers and poets?
Potis Katrakis: Every week I am invited to attend about ten events. As the week has only five working days and every night if I could go it would be impossible to satisfy them all. I want to go and I find the most interesting of them, but I can not go, in fact, more than one – two times per week, because there are and other important obligations.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Do you like any other art besides the literature?
Potis Katrakis: I have been spread so much in all kinds of literature, that although I wanted to do something else I have no time to spare.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: What you haven’t done in your life and regret it?
Potis Katrakis: I have no regrets something. Many times, however I think if I had not done of what I did, for example not to waste so much time in politics, in the presidency of various associations etc. and to have accumulated more in the literature.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: What do you consider the most important problem of the people of today?
Potis Katrakis: I generally consider the most important problem of the people nowadays the environmental pollution and the creation and the nuclear proliferation, the chemical and biological weapons too, which threaten to destroy our planet and create the uncontrolled disasters. But problem is and the overpopulation of a number of Muslim countries and other people in Asia and Africa.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Globalization seems to drag everything in its way. As a poet, Potis Katrakis, how he resists to such and all kinds threats?
Potis Katrakis: Globalization is a serious and a complex issue and I think it is not easy for someone to give answers without preparation, without serious studies. But even though the studies that have been done, you can not be sure and safe for your conclusions, so that all the evidence to prove what and how many of the aspects are positive and how many of them are negative. As happens with all the views of life, where few prophets are verified after their implementation.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: Are you optimistic about the future of our planet and our country?
Potis Katrakis: If the current situation continues, I am pessimistic about the fate of our planet and much more for the luck of the identity of our country’s status as a Greek. For the fate of our planet from the environmental pollution, the nuclear proliferation and of biological weapons, the depletion of raw materials, of energy and the overpopulation of Islamic and other peoples in Asia and Africa because of their overpopulation and poverty will besiege continuously either armed or unarmed the borders of Europe, to enter into and capture it with their population explosion. For the fate of our country I see to happen in the near future, the following two possibilities: the first is the nation and state to disappear and remain a memory in history, like the people who have disappeared in the depths of centuries. Throughout the area of the Balkans and Asia Minor to prevail a sort of Ottoman Empire, which will consist the eastern part of the European Union. And this will happen according to three factors: 1) The high birth rate of Muslims that enter and will enter as legitimate or illegal immigrants in our country and other neighbouring countries. 2) The low birth rate of the Greeks and
3) The non-assimilation of Muslims into Greeks or other nations by reason of the difference of religion. The second possibility is to prevail in the Balkans and Asia Minor a Greek-speaking majority, a short of Byzantine Empire, which will form the eastern part of the European Union. This can not happen because of three factors: 1) the superiority of Greek culture, 2) the supremacy of the Greek language and 3) the supremacy of the Greek economy. Already, the undeclared and seemingly peaceful competition has begun and will intensify methodically in the future until the domination of one or the other possibility. However, things are marching with mathematical precision in the prevalence of the first possibility. Greeks will change into Muslims and Turks in the context of the European Union. Unless the appropriate authorities appreciate the fact and without regard to the political cost to take draconian measures of defence and counterattack before it’s too late. Because this would be the worst from what we could bequeath to our descendants that will be the victims of this possibility.
Zacharoula Gaitanaki: What message do you send to other people with your work, your life and with this interview?
Potis Katrakis: With my work I send a great number of messages and refer to any object, in any disciplines and all expression of life. only in the fifties poetry collections that I have published until now, there are about 4000 poems. Every poem has its own message or messages. Aside those that are contained in my prose work. Messages that refer to existential, in social, political, national, nature loving, erotic, Christian, environmental, of the family issues etc, which are impossible to enumerate. The general message is that every person must fight to survive and to create in his life something commensurate with his physical and spiritual forces who he’s endowed by nature, always putting into practice of his objectives, first the health, after the economy, later the recreation and after all to push on with the distinction among his fellow men.