Me and K
Updated: Dec 28, 2022
Konstantinos Petrou Kavafis
The first Cavafy poem I read, I copied and pinned to my refrigerator. At the time I knew nothing of this poet, and now, I know just a little. I think a friend sent this poem to me, recognizing what she assumed would be an affinity between poets despite or in spite of the profound distances, both literally and figuratively, between us. She was right.
What most astonished me was the connection I felt to words that were so familiar as if to have been penned by my own hand. I'm not kidding. The similarity was uncanny. Or the voice of the translation mirrored mine. Either way. I felt like I had inherited my poetic sensibilities, somehow, across time and space, from this man, Konstantinos Kavafis, who was born over one hundred years before I was conceived.
I have long since lost my copy, I don’t remember which poem it was only that it was about lovers, and I don’t recognize it amongst his poems that pop up on the major poetry outlets, but I do remember the moment of recognition. The poem sounded to me like me. Don't take this the wrong way. When I say the poem was written in my voice as if I could have written the poem, I do not mean I am as great a writer as Cavafy. I mean, I know what he means without knowing all of what he means and I would have expressed it the same way because I prefer the essence to be squeezed out of language with precision and subtlety that borders on subversion and or subterfuge, and I sense K does too.
Scholar Maria Akritidou wrote about Cavafy’s work “Konstantinos Kavafis is a hypermodern poet, a poet for later generations.” His work is described as philosophical and appealing to emotional intellectualism. Akritidou continues “... his correct phrasing, the result of a classy naturalness, his slight irony, represent elements which will be further appreciated by future generations, motivated by the progress of the discoveries and the subtlety of the mental mechanism …He was a master at saying a lot with very little His style was ironic, esoteric, unrhymed, focused on detail and precise expression, qualities that made him a novelty among the poets of his time.”
Since these are qualities in form and function that I attempt for in my own work, it makes more sense now that I would find comfort and be profoundly influenced by the lines of this antiquated stranger, and if ever there was a doubt, nothing new has ever been created.
And he never published a book of poems while he was alive.
Soul mates do exist.
Anyways, I love him, so check out his work.
The Afternoon Sun by C. P. Cavafy | Poetry Foundation
The City by C. P. Cavafy | Poetry Foundation
Cavafy: The Greek Poet Master at Saying a Lot with Very Little (greekreporter.com)