Friday, November 28, 2008

Cavafy Reprise

James Robert Hopkins sends another version of the Cavafy poem, this one from Aliki Barnstone's recent volume. Thanks, James!


IN THE SAME SPACE

Surroundings of the house, meeting places, neighborhoods
that I see and where I walk, for years and years.

I created you with joys and sorrows,
so many events, so many things.

And you've made yourself all feeling for me.


This version makes me think about the final line in a different light, since in each of the three translations, the speaker doesn't seem to have actively transformed the neighborhood; it's never "I have made you into feeling", but rather, "you've made yourself," or "the whole of you has been transformed," or "you've been wholly remade" -- in other words, it's the world that transforms itself in us.

This is especially interesting after the active work of line three: "I created you" or "I crafted you..." But it would seem from the final line that it's the world that's really in charge here, not the artist.

3 comments:

Robert said...

Do you know the essay "Lost Cities" by Rachel Cohen? It's a wonderful essay about poetry and cities and Cavafy and Pessoa ... There's a link here.

nico said...

You can listen to this poem in Greek (read by G. Savvidis) in: http://www.snhell.gr/lections/writer.asp?id=60. Its no 198 and 199.

Binh around the City said...

Dear Mark--

I admire Aliki Barnstone's translation of Cavafy's "In the Same Space" the most. There is something natural, something simple and un-gimmicky with her diction and pacing. I see the speaker in the poem looking back, leisurely and clearly now, of the old places.

Barnstone's second line makes my mind jump immediately to a lovely poem by a good, solid American poet, that I read two years ago, when I first moved to NYC. Here 'tis, in full:

Where I built my house

Does being born matter
now that I am leaving it behind? Where
is a world I can go to
other than this ground
on which I walk and where I built my house?

Am I complaining of the shortness of life?
I am, that makes me much like everyone else.
Follow Adam, the leader, into the ground.

--David Ignatow,
from LIVING IS WHAT I WANTED: LAST POEMS (1999)