Artists Celebrate Work of Influential Gay Greek Poet
By Jerry Portwood
Drawing of Cavafy of David Hockney
One of the most original and influential Greek poets of the 20th century, C.P. Cavafy was also an important figure in gay history since he penned many poems that openly addressed themes of homoeroticism and same-sex love. Although many contemporary readers may not be as familiar with the significance of Constantine Cavafy's work in the 20th century, his poetry influenced an entire generation of creative people. As playwright Edward Albee has written:
"I remember I began reading Cavafy when I was quite young—when all the juices which sprang from his poetry were within me as well. I read him in translation, of course, and, first, in imperfect readings; then as the equivalencies improved, in better versions of the original. In whatever readings, I found his poetry so vivid, so personal, so beautiful, so powerful that I was aware of being in the presence of a great poet, one whose concerns echoed mine and whose mastery was thrilling."
The PEN American Center has organized a star-studded event—including Mark Doty (National Book Award poet), Olympia Dukakis, Orhan Pamuk (Nobel Prize winner in Literature), Kathleen Turner, and Michael Cunningham—to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the poet's work that encompases a 90-minute theatrical evening that includes performances, personal and scholarly reflections, onstage interviews, "live translations," and musical numbers that will bring his work to life for contemporary audiences. Another reason to attend will be David Hockney's illustrations based on poems by Cavafy, which are considered some of the artist's most accomplished line drawings, and will also be displayed during the event.
The event takes place Nov. 18 at Town Hall in New York City. For ticket information, visit the Pen.org website.