[editor’s note. The following group of translations of poems by Cavafy and commentary thereon has been drawn from a lecture entitled “Adventures in Translation Land,” given at Tel Aviv University as the annual Nadav Vardi lecture on May 29, 2008, and on June 1, 2008, in the English Staff Seminar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I was privileged to print it here several years ago and am reposting it now as a special tribute to master translator and poet George Economou, a major influence on my own life and times as a poet and assembler. Other work by Economou appears several times on Poems and Poetics. (J.R.)]
I first started reading Cavafy in the original in 1957 during my first visit to Greece, have continued to do so to the present day, and will surely do so for the rest of my days. The fact that I did not turn to translating his poems until some thirty years later never particularly mystified me, though once I started I did occasionally wonder why it took me so long. I believe I was too busy being quietly enriched and influenced by Cavafy in ways that have persisted in surprising me, ways that also accorded with my realization that the time had come to write my own Cavafy translations.
[Another excerpt from a work-in-progress, coedited by me with Heriberto Yépez and John Bloomberg-Rissman: a transnational anthology of the poetry and poetics of North and South America “from origins to present,” to be published in 2020 by the University of California Press. (J.R.)]