A Critical Edition
by Pound, Ezra
Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915) is a masterpiece of modernism, but also one of world literature. The muscular precision of images that mark Pound’s translations helped established a modern style for American literature, at the same time creating a thirst for classical Chinese poetry in English. Yet Pound wrote it without knowing any Chinese, relying instead on word-for-word “cribs” left by the Orientalist Ernest Fenollosa, whose notebooks reveal a remarkable story of sustained cultural exchange. This fully annotated critical edition focuses on Pound’s astonishing translations without forgetting that the original Chinese and Old English poems are masterpieces in their own right. By placing Pound’s final text alongside the poems it claims to translate, as well as the manuscript traces of Pound’s Japanese and American interlocutors, the volume resituates Cathay as a classic of world literature. The Pound texts and their intertexts are presented with care, clarity, and visual elegance. In addition to the Chinese poems of Cathay, the volume also includes that volume’s additional poem, Pound’s famous translation of “The Seafarer” from Anglo-Saxon, as well as fifteen further Pound translations from Chinese and his essay “Chinese Poetry.” A substantial textual Introduction elaborates the texts’ histories, and substantial prefatory pieces by Bush and Saussy discuss international modernism, the mediation of Japan, and translation. Finally, the edition supplies exhaustive historical, critical, and textual notes, clarifying points that have sometimes lent obscurity to Pound’s poems and making the process of translation visible even for readers with no knowledge of Chinese. This landmark edition will forever change how readers view Pound’s “Chinese” poems. In addition to discoveries that permanently alter the scholarly record, the critical apparatus allows fresh discoveries by making available the specific networks through which poetic expression moved among hands, languages, and media in a multiply authored and intrinsically hybrid masterpiece.