[from Rosanna Warren's "Sappho: Translation as Elegy" in The Art of Translation: voices from the field, edited by Rosanna Warren]
My translation of Catullus' "ille mi par . . ." occurs, with another Catullus poem in the Sapphic meter, in a volume of my own poems. But these possessive phrases become obtrusive, as indeed they ought in matters of authorship. The purpose in focusing on a translation of a translation is not to claim that the world needs yet another version of this perennially retranslated poem; nor is it to demonstrate that I have outpaced all my predecessors and found a perfect English equivalent for Catullus. Rather, I should like to offer it, impersonally, as a small instance of lyric lineage, a type or model for poetry's perpetual re-engendering of itself. It is to argue that poetry is, finally, a family matter, involving the strains of birth, love, power, death, and inheritance; and that, given such strains (in every sense), one is never "by onself" however isolated the act of writing may appear. The so-called original poems in my book are, in their own way, translations of several lyric traditions into personal experience and idiom, and are possible only because of strenuous acts of reading, one form of which we know, conventionally, as translation. I am concerned here with the way in which the individual poet inherits poetry, or, in Eliot's formulation, is catalyzed by it; and I take translation as a specific and especially focused instance of the reception and transformation of literary tradition.
The Art of Translation: Voices from the Field