Ithaca by Constantine P. Cavafy (1863 – 1933)
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
and the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your heart does not raise them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood by then what Ithacas mean.
The Jew’s Daughter is an interactive, non-linear, multi-valent narrative, a storyspace that is unstable but nonetheless remains organically intact, progressively weaving itself together by way of subtle transformations on a single virtual page. (Say that five times fast.)
What? Yeah, I don’t know either. Click here to read the entire thing. It goes on for pages and pages, but this first paragraph just slays me. It’s completely visceral storytelling. You aren’t told what is happening, but through the beautiful and haunting words choices, you build your own story. It is an emotional reaction. Now that’s fucking poetry.
I often find this part swirling around in my head:
(Is this what they said?), inadequacy, and, as a last resort, an inexplicable refusal. You asked could I build you from a pile of anonymous limbs and parts.
It’s just… yeah, so good.
Does poetry inspire you? Or do you find it mildly off-putting? I don’t have a favourite poet and I kinda feel like a fraud of a writer for that. But I do believe that all writers should give a stab at poetry — at least once in awhile. There’s something good and terrifying about no structure, rules. Write your lover a note, yours friends haikus, and someone a song. Or just keep them to yourself, whatever, as long as you’re exploring new means of storytelling. I’m still gathering the courage to post original poetry on here. Maybe I just need to accept that it’s okay to be bad. Or, just choose not to care.
If you were entranced by this poem, you’ll likely fall for this song by Sufjan Stevens ft. Buck 65. It’s weird, a little bit non-sensical, and fucking beautiful.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
– Walt Whitman