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John Marks

Sun 31st Jan 2021 16:33

i.m. C. P. Cavafy, poet

I am from Constantinople, a Byzantine by descent,

The last, the very last, Byzantine nobleman

My family lived in Constantinople before the Turks took the city in 1453.

I was born and died in the same place, Alexandria,

Egypt, on the same day, April 29th, 1863, and 1933.

I am homosexual. I died of cancer of the larynx.

I was silenced but noboby knew the difference.

There were many years between my visits to Greece

But I always loved my Hellenic inheritance..

I lived much of my childhood in England.

My last employment was as a government clerk .

I can write in Greek, English and French.

I self-published my poetry but it was unpopular

And unfashionable. I made no money from poetry.

In my poems I explore the psychology of individuals,

amidst the legacy of Greek culture, especially

Ithaca, homosexuality and Greek philosophy.

Throughout my life, and even now, I suffer

From an all-pervasive existential nostalgia.

Now my poems are taught in schools in Greece

One of my most famous poems is

Waiting for the Barbarians

Which could be about Constantinople

In the years before the Ottoman conquest.

Or could it be about the human tendency to prevaricate?

Who knows?

What’s the point of senators making laws now?

Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

These are the sorts of words I used. I asked many questions.

Including: Do we need barbarians, even invisible ones,

To be threatening the gates of our cities? I think we do

If we want to stay alive. Be the less-deceived.

Comment is about Holden Moncrieff (poet profile)

Original item by Holden Moncrieff

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