Poetics in translation : ”make it new” by Ezra Pound and ”transcreation” by Haroldo de Campos

Poetics in translation : ”make it new” by Ezra Pound and ”transcreation” by Haroldo de Campos

Table of Contents


This work aims to present how translation(Poetics in translation )became a poetics for the American poet Ezra Pound and the Brazilian Poet Haroldo de Campos. Both poets employed translation to expand their understandings about poetry but, at the same time, to create a new approach to the literary phenomenon by bringing together works of authors from many different geographies, epochs, and languages. The pound started to write poetry following the rhythm of the Anglo-Saxon and then he took a different direction producing books with comments on his translations like Provençal troubadours and Chinese poetry. He spent almost 25 years translating the entire work of Confucius and after that period he published his last translations of Greek and Egyptian poems. Haroldo was an admirer of Pound and he shared his translation passion. He founded the Avant-garde movement of Concrete Poetry in Brazil and he did collective translations with the members of the movement. His specialization in languages prompted him to translate Avant-garde poetry from many different languages and then he moved to the classics like Dante, Goethe, Homer, and the Bible. De Campos benefited from his academic position to obtain specialized advising for his translations. Furthermore, he elaborated a theory on translation following philosophical texts, that he called “transcreation.” He was convinced that the best poetry at all times is essentially Avant-garde.

Part of Introduction

Translation became a quest to understand poetry(Poetics in translation )in the twentieth century. There is no preceding age when this labor provoked so many opinions and interests as a creative process. This study aims to explore the essential position translation occupied in the works of the American poet Ezra Pound and the Brazilian poet Haroldo de Campos. In both cases, the number of translations and texts on translation exceeds the number of their original works as poets. Also, their original poems are permeated by translations and, in many cases, the authors incorporated foreign words in their poems, i.e., they were anticipating the act of translation in their poems.

Both poets followed different paths to develop their unique labor on translation and their results influenced their ideas on poetry and literature. Their discoveries changed not only approaches to the original texts but also contributed to creating a more extensive comprehension of poetry in a period when avant-garde movements were trying to annihilate the traditional understanding of this art. Pound’s importance and controversies in the literary world have produced an overwhelming amount of criticism, not only regarding his original poems but also his translations.

Part of Conclusion

3.1 Fenollosa’s Legacy Since the beginning of his career as a translator of poetry(Poetics in translation ), Ezra Pound became a polemic figure. His enthusiasm for poetry pushed his efforts beyond his skills; this titanic enterprise was only one step into a greater ambition, to become the man who knew the most about poetry. However, the risk of the enterprise proved to be unique, as J. P. Sullivan affirms in his book Ezra Pound and Sextus Propertius:

It is worth stressing that it is in no small measure due to Pound’s own critical theories that
we see translation as an art in this way: that we can extricate ourselves from the naïve
view of what translation is – the reproduction in one’s own language of the exact sense
and the set number of poetic qualities of the original, whatever they are, or the
reproduction in mind of the present-day reader of the effect the original had upon its
audience. The object of such aims is a chimera. Traduttore traditore – all translation is
compromise. (Sullivan, 1964, 21)

To render a general look over Pound’s translations that were published as books, the following need to be listed: Sonnets and Ballads of Guido Cavalcanti and the poem “The Seafarer,” published in Ripostes(1912), Cathay (1915), Homage to Sextus Propertius(1919), Dialogues of Fontenelle (1917), Rémy de Gourmont’s The Natural Philosophy of Love (1922), Edouard Estouniè’s The Call of the Road (1923), the Confucian texts, the Ta Hio (1928), later translated again and published as the Great Digest in 1945, The Unwobbling Pivot (1947), The Analects (1951) and The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius (1954), Love Poems of Ancient Egypt and Women of Trachis (1962).

It is important to observe the impact of the Oriental culture on Pound’s evolution as a translator(Poetics in translation )and, in particular, to mention here the manuscript of Ernest Fenollosa that Pound received in 1914 and edited and published in 1919 as The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. This essay was essential not only to Pound’s self-development but to modern poetry in general. The merits of the comprehension of the ideogram by Fenollosa 240 and Pound lie in their ability to distinguish the pictographic etymology that evolved into an elaborate symbolic representation. This reveals the rapport that certain traditions of Chinese poetry kept with painting. Furthermore, this essay opened a material perspective for considering an aspect of Oriental languages that, by that time, linguists insisted on disregarding and looked at as a mere grammatical representation of the meaning.

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FULL Paper PDF file:




Jose Luis Molina Robles

To cite this version:

Jose Luis Molina Robles. Poetics in translation: ”make it new” by Ezra Pound and ”transcreation”
by Haroldo de Campos. Literature. Université de Perpignan, 2017. English. find : 2017PERP0009ff.


HAL Id: tel-01534053

Soutenue le 3 février, 2017 devant le jury composé de

M. Christoph REINFANDT, Professeur, Université Tübingen Directeur de la th
M. Jonathan POLLOCK, Professeur, Université Perpignan Co-directeur de la th
M. Sebastian THIES, Professeur, Université Tübingen Membre du j
Mme. Ingrid HOTZ-DAVIES, Professeure, Université
Membre du j
M. Eckart, GOEBEL, Professeur, Université Tübingen Membre du j
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