2011 Book 10: Cavafy’s Selected Poems

A few weeks ago my BFA advisor asked me if I’d ever read C.P. Cavafy. He kind of freaked out when I said I hadn’t. So I went to the library and got a couple translations. This collection, translated by Avi Sharon, was my favorite. They just felt so contemporary and wonderful.

Then again, that’s why I don’t really like translations: They’re never exactly what the writer intended. Sharon’s versions were so different than the others I read, it was startling. Granted I thought they were the best ones, but it’s strange to think of other readers thinking about Cavafy in completely different ways.

Cavafy was a Greek poet living in Alexandria at the turn of the century. He was basically ‘out’ before ‘out’ was a thing, which peppers both his life and his poetry with some intrigue. When I was reading, I was constantly surprised at how blunt some of the poems were—no allusions to homosexual love, it’s just there. His frankness is something to aspire to, I think.

My favorite poem was “One of Their Gods,” in which various townspeople watch a stranger coming into town before he ducks into an alleyway, where ‘those who know better’ are very aware of who awaits him. The coolest.

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