Sunday, April 29, 2012

Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933)

[Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933) Alexandria, circa 1890, via the Cavafy Archive]

To Peter Orlovsky

When we parted in Tangier
We said ten years or perhaps a few months.
Whatever fate and railroads bring, whatever cities or deserts -
Now I'm in the holy land, alone
reading Cavafy - it's half past twelve
My letters haven't reached you, yet you're somewhere here, Petra or Syria
Perhaps have entered the Gate to this land and are looking for me in Jerusalem -
I wrote to all your addresses and to your mother -
Tonight I am reading books and remembering our old nights together naked -
I hope fate brings us together, a letter answered, held in the red hand -
or crossing some modern streetcorner, look joyfully in each others' eyes.
- Allen Ginsberg from "The Journals, Early Fifties, Early Sixties" (November 1961)

Constantine Cavafy, the great Greek poet, the great queer poet, the great Alexandrian, was both born and died on this day, April 29.

We direct you to the Cavafy Archive and, in particular such pages as Cavafy's World (for background), The Canon (a canonical list of the poems), and Cavafy on the Web (a useful updated register of his on-going contemporary relevance).

Here's W.H.Auden's introduction to Rae Dalven's translations.

Here's, perhaps his most famous poem, Ithaka, in both the Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard translation (alongside four other translations).

Here it is read and illustrated in Iannis Smaragdis' 1996 film

The recent (2009) Daniel Mendelsohn translation of the oeuvre - Collected Poems and Unfinished Poems (Cavafy in English) comes highly recommended.

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