Among the poets of the twentieth century, there is maybe one who can confidently say, "I am better than Cavafy." Yet, on a top five list of the twentieth century's greatest poets, Cavafy is far less likely to appear than, say, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Elizabeth Bishop, Philip Larkin, or W. H. Auden, yet Cavafy's work can stand against any of these.
Poets tend to squabble with tired questions, faith vs. reason, contemplation vs. experience, knowledge vs. serenity, life vs. language, etc. Cavafy, the Alexandrian Greek, does not squabble. Whether Cavafy's poems are about politics, art, or love (and those on the latter are the finest), it is as if his principal questions are answered before he writes the poem. Cavafy would never write a poem depicting the conflict between seamy, audacious amours and upright society. Instead, he goes ahead and writes about seamy, audacious amours, and at the end reminds us that upright society doesn't understand, that it makes "stupid comparisons."
And all of this Cavafy does with a fleeting tone (a la John Keats) that appears to be chiseled into marble (a la Ovid), at once the slightest and weightiest thing you've ever read.
Positively a must read and must own for any self-respecting poetry enthusiast.