Associate Professor of English Martin McKinsey has published new translations with essay of works by the Greek-Egyptian poet C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933). “Clearing the Ground: C.P. Cavafy Poetry and Prose, 1902-1911” (Chapel Hill: Laertes, 2015) illuminates a crucial decade of Cavafy’s artistic development, marked at one end by a period of personal crisis and near creative stasis, at the other by the poetic force of the celebrated “Ithaca.” The years in between are held together by the “Unpublished Notes on Poetics and Ethics.” The full body of the notes is correlated in this volume with the poetry Cavafy was writing contemporaneously. The afterward by McKinsey examines Cavafy’s sexuality and accompanying pressures in historical context and suggests the part they may have played in his poetic breakthrough.
C. P. Cavafy is one of the most recognizable names in Modern Greek literature and a major figure in twentieth-century world poetry. His poems of the ancient Hellenized Middle East – of peoples “who were not of the Greek race, and who spoke the Greek language with Asiatic intonations and faulty syntax” – have permanently altered our conception of the world of antiquity, and have struck a chord in their seeming relevance to our own times. Concurrently, his “modern” poems depicting casual urban pickups and doomed erotic passion have been recognized as groundbreaking contributions to the development of contemporary gay consciousness.
Martin McKinsey’s teaching and research cover modern and contemporary British, Irish, world literature and translation theory. His most recent translations from Modern Greek are “Petrified Time: Poems from Makronisos by Yannis Ritsos” (with Scott King, 2014); and “Acropolis and Tram: Poems 1937-1977 by Nikos Engonopoulos” (2008). He is also the author of “Hellenism and the Postcolonial Imagination: Yeats, Cavafy, Walcott” (2010).