Cavafy has gained a wide audience since his death in 1933. He is known in this country by his poem "Ithaka," which was read at the funeral of Jacqueline Onassis. Referring to the wanderings of Odysseus, the poem reminds us that the journey is more important than the arrival. Cavafy wrote about history (particularly Hellenic history), about homosexual love, and about the power of art to mediate between the individual and the historical moment.
Three exhibits at the U-M combine Cavafy's poetry with the visual arts. The Poet in the Library at the Hatcher Graduate Library includes manuscripts, hand-printed broadsides, and copies of the pamphlets Cavafy assembled for his friends. A series of 1960s etchings that David Hockney created to accompany Cavafy's erotic poems hangs in the U-M Museum of Art.
The largest of the shows, the Kelsey Museum's Ancient Passions, offers poems mounted next to period photographs of Cavafy and his world and objects of the classical, Hellenic, or Byzantine worlds that the poet mentions or that might have inspired him.