Authors: Constantine P. Cavafy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Egyptian poet

Identity: Gay or bisexual

Author Works

Poetry:

Poiemata, 1935 (Alexander Singopoulos, editor)

The Poems of C.P. Cavafy, 1951

The Complete Poems of Cavafy, 1961

Poiemata, 1963 (George Savidis, editor)

K. P. Kabaphe: Anekdota poiēmata, 1968 (Savidis, editor)

Passions and Ancient Days, 1971

Collected Poems, 1975 (Savidis, editor)

Before Time Could Change Them: The Complete Poems of Constantine P. Cavafy, 2001

Biography

Constantine P. Cavafy (kah-VAH-fee) is considered by many the greatest modern Greek poet. Ironically, he actually knew little of Greece, having visited there but twice, and then only briefly. Konstantionos Petrou Kabaphes, born to the family of an importer-exporter, lived in Alexandria until his father’s death in 1876. The thirteen-year-old boy then went to England, where he attended school for three years. After this time in England, he spent three and a half years in Istanbul (then known as Constantinople), the home of his mother’s family. He lived in Alexandria for the rest of his seventy years, except for brief visits to London, Paris, and Athens.{$I[AN]9810000618}{$I[A]Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$S[A]Kabaphes, Konstantionos Petrou;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$S[A]Kavafis, Konstantinos Petrou;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$I[geo]GREECE;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$I[geo]EGYPT;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$I[geo]GAY OR BISEXUAL;Cavafy, Constantine P.}{$I[tim]1863;Cavafy, Constantine P.}

Little of Cavafy’s poetry was published in his lifetime, although he apparently began writing while still in school. He was a keen judge of his own work, being so dissatisfied with many of his poems that he destroyed the manuscripts. In 1904 he issued one volume of poetry he had had privately printed, containing fourteen poems; enlarged to twenty-one poems, the volume was reprinted five years later. Cavafy permitted friends to have copies of other poems, printed on single broadsheets.

Much of his poetry deals with the Greek past, especially the period of post-Alexandrian Greece; occasionally he set poems in the time of Homer and the era of the Trojan War. In writing of the past Cavafy is precise, subtle, and ironic. Another portion of his work contains personal and erotic poetry. Many of these poems reflect the poet’s homosexuality, discussing the problems of lust, anxiety, guilt, and nostalgia in love as these emotions are experienced by a contemporary homosexual man.

BibliographyAnton, John P. The Poetry and Poetics of Constantine P. Cavafy: Aesthetic Visions of Sensual Reality. Newark, N.J.: Gordon & Breach Science, 1995. Discusses Cavafy’s early development and the creation of his own original poetic voice. Includes autobiographical elements and background of ancient Alexandria as a way to further the understanding of the poetry.Jusdanis, Gregory. The Poetics of Cavafy: Textuality, Eroticism, History. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. Discusses Cavafy’s conception of the poet; his conception of his audience; his formalistic concerns, especially within the context of the redemptive powers of art; and his language and textuality. Explores Cavafy’s affiliations with modernism and Romanticism, and his poetics and poetic concerns, especially the role of the poet and the value of art.Keeley, Edmund. Cavafy’s Alexandria. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996. Important study of Cavafy’s deployment of the city of Alexandria in his poetry, which demonstrates that from 1911 to 1921 Cavafy developed his own imaginative version of his home city Alexandria. Suggests Cavafy’s image of Alexandria is a various one, including visions of Alexandria as a contemporary homoerotic Sensual City, a Metaphoric City, and a Mythical, Hellenistic City.Liddell, Robert. Cavafy: A Biography. 1974. Reprint. London: Gerald Duckworth, 2001. Gracefully written and appreciative biography of Cavafy and an important resource for all Cavafy scholars. Discusses Cavafy’s family background, his early years, his relationship with his mother, his life in Alexandria, his homosexuality, his poetry, and his last years. Numerous illustrations and bibliography.
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