The University Record, March 4, 2002

Cavafy takes campus by storm

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Cavafy (Photo courtesy of Kelsey Museum)
Three exhibits inspired by the premier modern poet Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933) are open on the Ann Arbor campus through May 5.

These exhibits bring together an extraordinary range of materials including manuscripts from Athens that have never before been shown in the United States. There also will be contemporary art from New York and archaeological objects from U-M.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, raised and educated in England, Cavafy lived an intensely divided life. He was a Greek minority in colonial Egypt, an Orthodox Christian among Muslims, a modern among towering ancients, a homosexual in a straight world. Yet the remnants of ancient civilizations surrounding him stirred his imagination. His poetry brings to life moments in history and personal discoveries and struggles. Poems such as “Ithaka” and “Waiting for the Barbarians” have brought Cavafy fame in our times.

“Ancient Passions” at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology features key points in the life and works of Cavafy and includes rare original manuscripts of the poet’s works mounted next to artifacts from the Museum’s collection. More than 150 objects from the Kelsey Museum are on display, some never before exhibited. Visitors will have an opportunity to view Roman death masks, Egyptian mummy portraits, Greek pottery, ancient jewelry, and a range of Greek and Roman coins.

U-M’s Special Collections Library, located within the Hatcher Graduate Library, is showing rare handwritten and printed poems that Cavafy circulated in his lifetime, as well as later publications and translations of the poet’s work.

“Hidden Things” at the U-M Museum of Art will display etchings by British artist David Hockney that were inspired by Cavafy’s poems. The title “Hidden Things” comes from a poem by Cavafy about the social pressures that compel people to keep key elements of their character hidden.

Other events surrounding the exhibits in the months to come include a roundtable discussion, lectures, a conference, a photography exhibit and book signing. All exhibits and events are free and open to the public.

For more information about the exhibits and future events, visit or contact the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, (734) 764-9304.