First Edition

Clearing the Ground: C. P. Cavafy, Poetry and Prose, 1902-1911

Clearing the Ground 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 The years in between are held together by the “Unpublished Notes on Poetics and Ethics.”

Part private confession, part public pronouncement, part journal entry, and philosophical pensée, these notes were recorded between 1902 and 1911. In some of them, according to the eminent critic G. P. Savidis, Cavafy attempted to formulate “thoughts and feelings never before uttered” in his own language — in certain cases, in any language.

The full body of the notes is correlated in this volume with the poetry Cavafy was writing contemporaneously — in particular the startling “hidden poems” begun in 1904. What emerges is a striking narrative of artistic and personal becoming.

The afterward by Martin McKinsey examines Cavafy’s sexuality and accompanying pressures in historical context and suggests the part they may have played in his poetic breakthrough.

This is a revelatory work for students and lovers of Cavafy — one of the great outsider poets of the twentieth century.


I scanned Cavafy availed by 15 pundits of translation and criticism; only now I begin to discern this poet to be a man as I would be, a man whose diversified fulfillments and consummations were to be held within one apprehension, the which, I now discern, he had achieved. Thank you, Martin McKinsey.

~Richard Howard


Martin McKinsey teaches literature at the University of New Hampshire. 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). 

More on Martin McKinsey

The God Abandons Antony  - read in the original Greek



Clearing the Ground: C. P. Cavafy, Poetry and Prose, 1902-1911

softcover  –  ISBN 978-1-942281-00-9  –  163 pages

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A look within:

Cover painting by Biba Kayewich:

The Greek-Egyptian poet C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933) has come to be the most recognizable name 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.

For the supreme Cavafy resource, visit the website of the Cavafy Archive: .