Poetry Month 2016: Constantine Cavafy
The First Step The young poet Evmenis complained one day to Theocritos: “I have been writing for two years now and I have composed just one idyll. It’s my only completed work. I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry is tall, extremely tall; and from this first step I now stand on I will never climb any higher.” Theocritos replied: “Words like that are improper, blasphemous. Just to be on the first step should make you happy and proud. To have come this far is no small achievement: what you have done is a glorious thing. Even this first step is a long way above the ordinary world. To stand on this step you must be in your own right a member of the city of ideas. And it is a hard, unusual thing to be enrolled as a citizen of that city. Its councils are full of Legislators no charlatan can fool. To have come this far is no small achievement: what you have done already is a glorious thing.” [from C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition.] ~ From the Publisher’s Web site: C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria, and a collected edition of his poems was not published until after his death. Now, however, he is regarded as the most important figure in twentieth-century Greek poetry, and his poems are considered among the most powerful in modern European literature. Here is an extensively revised edition of the acclaimed translations of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, which capture Cavafy’s mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies.