Study Guide

Canto I Calling Card

By Ezra Pound

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Calling Card

The Poetry of Translation

There are a few Modernists who would probably mention Homer's Odyssey in their work, like maybe T.S. Eliot or James Joyce. But you know you're reading Ezra Pound in "Canto I" because most of this poem is just a straight-up translation of Homer, rather than just an allusion to it. Now you might be thinking, "Hey, doesn't that mean that Pound is just plagiarizing?" Well here's the funny thing, Pound believed that translating a text was just as creative and original as writing a brand new one. Heck, Pound even makes a point of giving props to Andreas Divus, the sixteenth-century dude who wrote the version of The Odyssey Pound was working from.

For Pound, the point of translating a text isn't only to change the words from one language to another. A truly good translator needs to understand the core values and emotions of the original text, then basically rewrite the thing from scratch. In other words, we're not talking about throwing Homer's Odyssey into Google Translator. We're talking about an actual creative, poetic act. This wasn't the first time that Pound pulled off this stunt. Just check out "The River-Merchant's Wife: A Letter" for another example of his creative translating.

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