Article Index

Ezra Pound, Cathay: A Critical Edition, ed. Timothy Billings, fwd. Haun Saussy, intro. Christopher Bush.

New York: Fordham University Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780823281060, 364 pp, $35

Ezra Pound’s Cathay (1915) is a masterpiece both of modernism and of world literature. The muscular precision of images that mark Pound’s translations helped establish a modern style for American literature, at the same time creating a thirst for classical Chinese poetry in English. Pound’s dynamic free-verse translations in a modern idiom formed the basis for T.S. Eliot’s famous claim that Pound was the “inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.” Yet Pound achieved this feat 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 poems are masterpieces in their own right. On the one hand, the presentation of all that went into the final Cathay makes it possible for the first time to appreciate the magnitude and the nuances of Pound’s poetic art. At the same time, by bringing the final text together with the Chinese and Old English poems it claims to translate, as well as the manuscript traces of Pound's Japanese and American interlocutors, the volume also recovers practices of poetic circulation, resituating a Modernist classic as a work of world literature.


Foreword: The Archive of Cathay, Haun Saussy
Introduction: From the Decipherings, Christopher Bush
Editor's Introduction: Cracking the Crib, Timothy Billings

Cathay (1915)

Lustra (1916): The Chinese Poems

Miscellaneous Poems

The Little Review (1918): Two Translations

Cribs for Cathay & Other Poems, Ernest Fenollosa, et al.

Chinese Poetry (1918)