Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Lucky for me, in my exile, I have copies of Cavafy’s poetry in both the original Greek and in English translation. Constantine Cavafy, 1863-1933, great Greek poet, universally loved, a poet relaxed about his sexuality writing many beautiful gay poems some fifty years before Stonewall and the start of gay liberation. I used to sit on the balcony here in Porto Heli with my Mother and she’d read me some of Cavafy’s poems in Greek, and then I’d read some in Greek too. We shared our love of the poet. His great poem, The City, which says that wherever you go, the city you came from will follow you, because you are the city and you cannot escape from yourself.
You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
During the lockdown I was delighted to get a commission from poet and editor, David Cooke, to write an essay on Cavafy for his excellent, High Window Magazine – a great excuse to plunge back into the poetry, enjoy it, think about it, work out what I wanted to say about it. As well as my essay he also published my poem about Cavafy, The Alexandrian, and a poem I wrote after Cavafy called, Cavafy on the Balcony. Plus he put up a link to a short documentary I made with Barry Lowe about Cavafy, filmed in Alexandria and Hong Kong.
Here is the link to essay, poems and film…
And here is the start of my poem The Alexandrian about Cavafy – you can read
the rest in the link above.
Round spectacles, dapper suit and tie,
portfolio tucked primly underarm,
from Rue Lepsius he makes his way,
past brothel, church and hospital,
a clerk en route to his ministry,
the Water Board, his satrapy,
Third Circle of Irrigation,
British colonial administration,
the daily grind, the Archimedean screw,
and in return, his monthly due.