Catullus (1969) with Celia Zukofsky


Braun, Richard Emil. “The Original Language: Some Postwar Translations of Catullus.” Grosseteste Review 3.4 (1970): 27-34.

Corman, Cid. “Poetry as Translation (Zukofsky).” At Their Word: Essays on the Arts of Language, vol. 2 (1978): 16-30.

Davenport, Guy. “Zukofsky’s English Catullus.” MAPS 5 (1973): 70-75. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 365-370.

Eastman, Andrew. “Estranging the Classic: The Zukofskys’ Catullus.” La Revue LISA VII.2 (2009): 117-129 [online at].

Gordon, David. “A Note on LZ’s Catullus LXI: Theme and Variations.” Sagetrieb 2.2 (1983): 113-121.

___. “Three Notes on Zukofsky’s Catullus I ‘Catullus viii’: 1939-1960.” In Terrell (1979): 371-381.

___. “Zuk on His Toes.” Sagetrieb 1.1 (1982): 133-141.

Hatlen, Burton. “Catullus Metamorphosed.” Paideuma 7.3 (1978): 539-545.

___. “Zukofsky as Translator.” In Terrell (1979): 345-364.

Hooley, Daniel M. “Tropes of Memory: Zukofsky’s Catullus.” Sagetrieb 5.1 (1986): 107-123. Rpt. The Classics in Paraphrase: Ezra Pound and Modern Translators of Latin Poetry (1988): 55-69.

Horáček, Josef. “Pedantry and Play: the Zukofsky Catullus.” Comparative Literature Studies 51.1 (2014): 106-131.

Kelly, Louis. The True Interpreter (1979).

Lefevre, André. Translating Poetry: Seven Strategies and a Blueprint (1975): 20-26.

Mann, Paul. “Translating Zukofsky’s Catullus.” Translation Review 21/22 (1986): 3-9.

McMorris, Mark. “Zukofsky’s Bilingual Catullus: Theoretical Articulations upon the Translator’s Method.” Paideuma 35.1 & 2 (2008): 217-249.

Parsons, Marnie. Touch Monkeys: Nonsense Strategies for Reading Twentieth-Century Poetry (1993): 152-154.

Quartermain, Peter. Disjunctive Poetics: From Gertrude Stein and Louis Zukofsky to Susan Howe (1992): 114-120.

Raffel, Burton. “No Tidbit Love You Outdoors Far as a Bier: Zukofsky’s Catullus.” Arion 8 (1969): 434-445.

Scroggins, Mark. “‘To Breathe the “Literal” Meaning’: Zukofsky’s Catullus.” Talisman 6 (1991): 42-44.

Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. “‘gurgle of welters’: Catullus and Composition by Homophonic Suggestion” (2014). Z-Notes.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (1995): 214-224.

Waldrop, Rosmarie. “Translation: The Zukofsky Catullus.” Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmund Jabès (2002): 72-73 [brief remarks on Jabès’ reaction to Catullus].

Watten, Barrett. “Zukofsky’s Catullus.” This 4 (1973): 71.

Wray, David. Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (2001) [includes chap. “A postmodern Catullus?” that draws various parallels with the Zukofsky Catullus].

___. “‘cool rare air’: Zukofsky’s Breathing with Catullus and Plautus.” Chicago Review 50.2/3/4 (2004/05): 52-99.

Yao, Steven. Translation and the Languages of Modernism: Gender, Politics, Language (2002): 209-233 [includes chapter, “’dent those reprobates, Romulus and Remus!’: Lowell, Zukofsky, and the Legacies of Modernist Translation”].


This provocative rendition of Catullus’ complete works by LZ and CZ is probably the best-known example in American literature of a homophonic translation. Too often, however, the Zukofskys’ practice has been understood as merely a transcription of the sonic dimension of the original Latin, whereas actually its composition is a much more complicated procedure between the eye, ear and lexical sense. When published by Cape Goliard/Grossman in 1969, the original Latin was printed on the facing page.


CZ explained their working procedure in a 12 Sept. 1978 letter to Burton Hatlen: “I did the spade work. I wrote out the Latin line and over it, indicated the quantity of every vowel and every syllable, that is long or short; then indicated the accented syllable. Below the Latin line I wrote the literal meaning or meanings of every word indicating gender, number, case and the order or sentence structure. I used Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary (Oxford UP) and Allen & Greenough Latin Grammar (Ginn & Co.). Louis then used my material to write poetry—good poetry—I could never do that! I never questioned any of his lines, just copied his handwritten manuscript to facilitate the typing” (Hatlen, “Zukofsky as Translator” 347). The dust jacket for Catullus reproduces two notebook pages for Catullus 85 showing what CZ describes (cover reproduced in Yao 222-23), and the copyright page includes the note: “Holograph of carmen LXXV (front cover): lines 1 and 3, C.Z.’s clear copy for typing of L.Z.’s lines 2 and 4, the rest L.Z.’s working; (back cover): Latin and pony, C.Z.’s, notes L.Z.’s.” LZ’s notes in the latter include several historical translations of the poem plus the note: “I might be said to / have tried reading his lips / that is while pronouncing”; see similar remarks in the “Poet’s Preface” (Prep+ 225) and “A”-14.356.1-7. These translations by others indicate that the Zukofskys were consulting their copy of The Poems of Catullus and Tibullus, and the Vigil of Venus, A Literal Prose Translation with Notes by Walter K. Kelly, to which are added The Metical Versions of [George] Lamb and [James] Grainger, and a selection of versions by other writers (London: George Bell, 1878). Kelly supplies extensive annotations to the poems.


For the most part, LZ and CZ seem to have worked straight through Catullus’ poems in the traditional order from 8 Feb. 1958 to 1 Feb. 1966. The major exception to this sequential approach is the lengthy #64, which they initially skipped and then came back to in late 1965 as the final piece. There was a hiatus of about two years between Spring 1958 and May 1960, and the renditions quickly become noticeably more radical after this break. The compositional chronology according to CZ’s “Year by Year Bibliography” is as follows:

1958: Catullus 1-5

1960: Catullus 6-9

1961: Catullus 10-17, 21-50 [the gap here is in the Catullus canon; see Zukofskys’ preface]

1962: Catullus 51-63, 65

1963: Catullus 66-69

1964: Catullus 70-80

1965: Catullus 81-116 and fragmenta, 64 (begun)

1966: Catullus 64 (completed)


The parenthetical subtitle, Gai Valeri Catulli Veronensis Liber, simply means: “The Book of Gai Valeri Catullus of Verona.” The primary Latin text used was the Loeb Classical Library edition edited and translated by Francis Warre Cornish (1913, rev. 1924), but for “passages omitted” in this edition, it was supplemented by that edited by Elmer Truesdell Merrill (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1893), as the Zukofskys indicate in the original version of their preface published in Kulchur in 1962 (see Prep+ 226). The Merrill text is meant for advanced students and includes detailed notes on the language. As was commonly the case with the older Loeb editions, Cornish’s English renditions are heavily bowdlerized: treating the more obscene passages evasively when possible or simply using ellipses when beyond the pale. The Zukofskys owned several editions and translations of Catullus (see LZ Library).


Catullus (84-54 BC) interested LZ early on: several translations are included in TP and Anew (1946) includes both a translation of Carmina 8 (“Miserable Catullus, stop being foolish”) in colloquial modernist style (CSP 88-89) and an adaptation of part of Carmina 67 in “In the midst of things” (CSP 81-82). There are also various Catullus references in “4 Other Countries” related to the Zukofskys’ European tour in the summer of 1957, which included visits to Verona, Catullus’ hometown, and Sirmio on Lake Garda where he had a villa (CSP 195).


On the copyright page of the original publication of Catullus, the Zukofskys dedicated #95 to Ezra Pound. Although EP translated very little of Catullus, he always considered him one of the supreme lyric poets, and scattered references to him and to Sirmio appear throughout the Cantos, especially the Pisan Cantos. LZ apparently sent #95 to Agenda for a special issue to celebrate Pound’s 80th birthday and was annoyed when it was not used. #102 was dedicated to Basil Bunting when first published in a special Bunting issue of Agenda (Autumn 1966)—Bunting includes an exasperated partial translation from Catullus 64 in his Complete Poems (153). When discussing plans to publish Catullus with Fulcrum Press, LZ told Bunting that he intended to dedicate it to both EP and Bunting, evidently echoing EP’s dedication in Guide to Kulchur to LZ and Bunting (letter dated 19 March 1966).


The primary period during which the Zukofskys worked on Catullus coincided with the surge of interest in LZ’s work in the 1960s, including Cid Corman’s featuring of LZ in the second series of Origin (1961-1964). Consequently the majority of Catullus originally appeared in journals, most often without the original Latin texts.


“Three from Gaius Valerius Catullus” [Catullus 1-3]. Poetry 94.3 (June 1959).

Catullus 4 & 5. In “Choice of Favorites,” Poetry Pilot (The Academy of American Poets) (Jan. 1960).

Catullus VI & VII. Origin 1, second series (April 1961).

Catullus 16. Trobar 4 (Feb. 1962).

Catullus 4, 5, 9, 10-14, 15. Origin 5, second series (April 1962).

“Translating Catullus”; 3 Carmina & 3 Cats [41, 42 & 63, with original Latin]. Kulchur 5 (Spring 1962) [including original version of both “Poet’s Preface” and “Translators’ Preface”; see Prep+ 225].

Catullus 17, 21, 23-25, 27-38. Origin 6, second series (July 1962).

Catullus 39, 40, 44, 46-48. Origin 7, second series (Oct. 1962).

Catullus 49-54a, 57, correct version of 39. Origin 8, second series (Jan. 1963).

Catullus 55, 58-60. Origin 9, second series (April 1963).

Catullus 56, 45. Origin 10, second series (July 1963).

Catullus 62. Origin 11, second series (Oct. 1963).

Catullus 63: Attis. Origin 12, second series (Jan. 1964).

Catullus 65. Origin 13, second series (April 1964): 35.

Catullus 22 & 26 [with Latin originals]. The Resuscitator 2 (April 1964).

Catullus 70, 72 & 73 [with Latin originals]. Paris Review 32 (Summer-Fall 1964).

Catullus 66. The Resuscitator 3 (Sept. 1964).

“Versions of Catullus” (Quod mihi fortuna) [Catullus 68, 68a]. Poetry 105.3 (Dec. 1964).

Catullus 67 [with Latin originals]. Yale Literary Magazine (April 1965).

Catullus 77. Riata (Spring 1965).

Catullus 82 [with Latin originals]. Harvard Advocate (Nov. 1965).

Catullus 94 [with Latin original]. Island 6/Combustion 15 (June 1966).

Catullus 102. Agenda 4.5 & 6 (Autumn 1966) [subtitled “To Basil Bunting” for BB special issue].

Catullus 83, 87, 107, 109. The Journal of Creative Behavior 1.2 (Spring 1967).

Catullus 38. Caterpillar 3/4 (April-July 1968) [in “Test of Translation”].

Catullus 60. the silent Zero, in search of Sound, ed. Eric Sackheim. NY: Grossman, 1968.

Catullus Fragmenta. London: Turret Books (Jan.1969) [limited ed.].

Peliaco Quondam” [Catullus 64]. Poetry 114.4 (July 1969).

Catullus XI, XLV, LI, LVIII, XCVI. Grosseteste Review 3.4 (Winter 1970) [Special Catullus/Zukofsky issue].


Notes to Catullus


The following notes largely limit themselves to indicating cross-references to other works by LZ. Numbers on the left indicate Catullus poems rather than page numbers.


2           This entire translation is included in “A”-17.387, headed with the first line of the Latin original. LZ had sent his versions of the first three Catullus poems to WCW in June 1958, which may have been the first time the Zukofskys showed them to anyone else. Qtd. Bottom 111.

5           At “A”-18.393.5-6, LZ gives a different, more homophonic rendition of the famous first line of this poem: “We warm us may ah Lesbia what cue / may maim us.”

8           LZ previously translated this poem in 1939, which was collected as Anew 22 (CSP 88-89). Qtd. Bottom 111.

14         First line of this version qtd. Bottom 265.

16         Qtd. Bottom 111 and 403.

22         Suffenuses: see “A”-14.334.3.

31         In “4 Other Countries” (CSP 195), LZ quotes a phrase from this poem, “o Lydiae lacus,” in a passage where he describes visiting Lake Sirmio and Verona during the Zukofskys’ 1957 trip to Europe. Qtd. Bottom 111.

51         This entire translation is included in “A”-17.388, headed with the first line of the Latin original. WCW had included a version of the Sappho poem of which Catullus’ poem is a translation in Paterson V (215). There are two partial versions of this poem by Byron and Sir Phillip Sidney in TP 55, the latter version also appears in Bottom 355.

62         Three lines of this version (ll. 39, 41and l. 20) are qtd. Bottom 265-266. “A”-15.366.22-23 quotes bits from the first few lines of the Zukofskys’ version: “Vesper there / Vesper Olympus dig air.” The opening words, Vesper adest, appear in Little (CF 45).

63         Several lines or part-lines of this version qtd. Bottom 265: l.55 (CSP 284) and ll. 48-49 (CSP 283).

64         In “A”-19.430.25 LZ mentions “Gai’s / spindle,” referring to Catullus’ description of the Parcae or Fates. LZ found similar imagery elsewhere, particularly in the myth of Er that concludes Plato’s Republic, which he used for “Pamphylian (CSP 133), also mentioned Bottom 83 and Prep+ 55.

66         Five of the first eight lines of this version qtd. Bottom 265.

67         Catullus’ poem is partially paraphrased in the 1941-1942 poem Anew 11: “In the midst of things” (CSP 81-82).

68a       Final phrase qtd. with Catullus translation at “A”-14.357.1-2: “dulce mihist / kiss me last.”

76         Final phrase qtd. with Catullus translation at “A”14.357.3: “pietate mea— / my piety may.”

85         Opening Latin qtd. Bottom 404. The dust jacket of Catullus reproduces the Zukofskys’ two working notebook pages of this poem, which include, besides the note quoted in the introductory comments above, references or quotation of various historical translations of Catullus’ poem. These include a reference to Landor’s version, to an echo in Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well and full quotation of versions by Lovelace, EP, George Lamb and Thomas Moore. The dust jacket is reproduced in Yao 222-223.

101       LZ’s 1962 elegy on his brother-in-law, “Atque in Perpetuum A.W.” (CSP 231) takes its title from the last line of Catullus’ poem. Cornish’s translation of this poem is included in TP 10.

115       Meantool: < L. Mentula is a vulgar term meaning dick or prick. Referred to at “A”-8.50.9: “For the estates Mentula had.” Cornish’s translation is included in TP 10. Uncapitalized, the name/word appears at “A”-18.390.21.