“Remember, Body…”; Literate Talks


A pocket-sized reminder that poetry is dangerous!

Cavafy. Dear Constantine, my most sincere apologies for the years I abandoned you and your work at my half-opened literature textbooks. I have finally come to meet you in a proper way. See you again this year!

Parenthesis has closed. For one, I kinda owed Cavafy an apology for my quick and a little harsh judgment of his work (oh, and yes, I’m still getting nostalgic over last year’s reads). This little black classic (along with Rossetti’s’) helped me overcome the intimidation, the fear of poetry. Talking about fears is also extremely intimidating so let me quote one of Fanny and Keats’s discussions.

Fanny Brawne: I still don’t know how to work out a poem. 
John Keats: A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is a experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept the mystery.

​I can’t fully explain how much I identify with Fanny. It says a lot that the only poetry books I own are gifts (including Cavafy’s).

John Keats is right, it’s a mystery we have to accept. But as a person who can’t help herself from finding that perfect, most satisfying solution, poetry can be overwhelming. That pretty much justifies the reason I always care a great deal about the poet, I want to know the whole story, I want to examine thoroughly his point of view.

When it comes to Cavafy, things get more complicated. Here in Greece, he makes quite often an appearance at the literature’s syllabus. The thing is that the glances to his writing were very, very selective, wrongly chosen if I may say. My teachers must have found overwhelming as well Constantine’s homosexuality to avoid mentioning it to us. They never preferred him, even though he was on the page. For this reason, he grew to be indifferent to me. Much like Fanny again, I wanted to read him for myself to see if he’s an idiot or not.

“He came to read; two or three books
are lying open: history and poetry.
But after just ten minutes of reading
he lets them drop. There on the sofa
he falls asleep. He truly is devoted to reading-
but he is twenty-three years old, and very handsome.
And just this afternoon, Eros surged
within his perfect limbs and on his lips.
Into his beautiful flesh came the heat of passion,
and there was no foolish embarrassment
about the form that pleasure took..”

He isn’t! His poetry wasn’t written for the textbooks, he wrote for the sake of art, of poetry. This particular collection of poems is filled with exceptionally beautiful and melancholic images of love (έρως) and life itself. The aestheticism and the words themselves are on point. Even though I have never been in love, I have never been chased or critiqued for my sexuality, I wasn’t lost in his world. He amazed me and excited me. Cavafy leaves the reader drunk and helplessly hoping and searching for the lover’s embrace.

Continuing the work of Rossetti, he finally lured me into the deep mystery of poetry. The most poetical thing of all, I can see myself rereading this through the years. I can see myself reading at a cafe, with my cappuccino at the table and the love letters hidden under my journal. Constantine’s portrayal of love manages to awaken the “romantic” in you.

That’s C.P Cavafy for me.


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