By Catherine Tsounis
“One thinks of one’s own self-made walls when reading Constantine P. Cavafy’s poem ‘The Walls’,” said Dr. Constantine E. Kosmas, keynote speaker at the “Cavafy’s Clear-Cut View: Poetry & Truth” lecture. The culture event was held on Sunday afternoon, June 10th in the church hall of the Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral in Corona. Cavafy’s philosophy ignited an audience discussion of its relevance today with the 2012 Greece economic crisis. Prominent persons in diplomatic, professional and business fields attended. A lavish reception followed.
Mr. Christos Vrettos, community activist/businessman, was the program narrator. He has donated his services to the community since the mid-1970. His unique bilingual, public speaking style has made every culture event he is involved in memorable. Mr. Vrettos mentioned the following point: Cavafy did not have a formal education. He acquired knowledge in his home. “He received little attention during his lifetime,” he said. “Cavafy published few poems in his lifetime. After his death, he gained attention as one of the greatest poets of his age. We have the honor of presenting the internationally known cardiologist/intellectual Dr. Constantine E. Kosmas who will speak about Constantine P. Cavafy.”
Dr. Kosmas, whose roots are from Kandila, Arcadia and Laconia in the Peloponnese, believes “Cavafy has been praised for his unique use of language and skill in merging historical subjects with modern sentiments to create a universal statement. No other poet worked alone, persevered and went higher up after death. His poetry concerned itself with historical events of Greece, Roman and Byzantine periods. He had a great love for the city of his birth, Alexandria. His poems used formal Greek with the demotic Greek of his time. Cavafy’s poems established him as an important voice in Modern Poetry.”
Dr. Kosmas described the main themes in “The God Abandon Antony”, “Thermopylae”, “The City”, “The Walls”, “Ithaca”, “Waiting for the Barbarians” and other poems. The speaker explained in “The City’ the poem says ‘I will go to another land, another city will be found, a better one than this……… Always you will arrive in this city. To another land — do not hope –
there is no ship for you, there is no road. As you have ruined your life here in this little corner, you have destroyed it in the whole world.’’ This reminds one of Aesop’s truth that “He that is discontented in one place will seldom be happy.” Dr. Kosmas explained that in “The Windows’ the idea is expressed that there are no windows. Who knows what tyranny will be shown.”
The speaker’s reading of “Ithaca” inspired an ovation of applause by the audience. “Ithaca is not to lose one’s purpose,” he explained. “Cavafy addresses every reader to embark on a journey to a life free of fears, full of promises. One is asked to see and enjoy the splendors of the world. In ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, the poem pertains to our present time. It reads ‘Why isn’t anything happening in the senate, Why do the senators sit there without legislating…Because the barbarians are coming today…..And now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians? They were those people, a kind of solution.’ I believe these citizens do not have to be defeated or conquered. They are already cowards. They can neither legislate nor act.” Dr. Kosmas hosts a television program on the Greek Cable channel.
Professor Christopher H. Tripoulas. Greek Afternoon School administrator/university educator and the author of the The Icarian Version, said “Cavafy is linked with the Alexandria built by the Greeks. He avoids mentioning the high points of Greek civilization. The theme is that we are endangered.”
Eleni Karageorgiou, Education Counselor of the Greek Consulate, New York, said “these are difficult times in Greece and of all of Europe. Greece will never die.” Rev. George Anastasiou, presbyter of the Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral, thanked Dr. Constantine Kosmas for his contribution to the cultural life of the community “Our lecture programs keep the Greek spirit alive,” he said. “National heroes such as Kolokotronis and Makriyannis pledged their allegiance for to their religious faith. They had their armies recite religious hymns before entering battle.” Rev. Anastasiou is a graduate of Sts. Anargyroi Greek language school of Washington Heights. He was a student of Dr. John G. Siolas, Associate Professor at Touro College, former principal of the Greek language program. For more information, call 718 458-5251 and www.transfigurationcorona.com.
Picture: Constatine P. Cavafy