Recently in Frostburg, MD on an excursion to Mainstreet Books, one of the finest independent bookstores I’ve been to for some time, a poet who accompanied me slipped a copy of The Collected Poems of Constantine Cavafy, a new translation by Aliki Barnstone (read review here).
Cavafy, the 20th Century Greek writer, who lived unashamedly with his gay side (well openly for the most part), always drew me since I read his poem Ithaka for a college course on Odysseus. (Hear it read in English by Sean Connery or in the original Greek from the movie about Cavafy.)
Reading this new fresh translation, I had to buy the book.
This poem tells my story in a way that has eluded me for over a decade. (try reading it aloud)
by C.P. Cavafy
The years of my youth, my sensual life–
how clearly I see their meaning now.
What needless repentances, how futile…
But I didn’t see the meaning then.
Out of the dissolute life of my youth
my poetry’s aims grew.
my art’s realm was drawn.
That is why the repentances were never steadfast.
And my resolutions to hold back, to change,
lasted two weeks at the most.
You can read more Cavafy poems in English and Greek here.