C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) has written some of the most powerful poems in history. His work uncannily translates history, the record of the many, into an individual personal document. Though Cavafy is wickedly satirical, many of his poems are located in a landscape of intimacy. Drawing on the spectrum of ancient Greek poetic tradition, his poetry is still internal, whether his speaker is a spoiled rich boy who plans to enter politics or a poor, ostracized, pure and beautiful young man destroyed by poverty and priggish social mores.
In these glimmering and lyrical translations, with an introduction and scholarly endnotes cowritten with Willis Barnstone, Aliki Barnstone has been faithful to the original Greek, capturing both Cavafy’s song and his vernacular in ways neglected in previous translations. Paying close attention to tone and diction, she has employed her well-tuned poet’s ear, making Cavafy’s verse breathe new music in English.