Virtuous and Chaste

Bernadette Mayer - "Catullus 42." Mayer's 1989 performance bristles with attitude, as a translation of Catullus's invective poem should, but she forgoes stagy anger (the ostensible tone of the poem) in favor of a kind of cocky, wry, delivery that makes a string of insults sound seductive and gives a sororophobic/sororophilic twist to the original. The slurred "c'mere" at the start, the counterintuitive phrasal rhythms that tug gently against the syntax without outright disrupting it, the plaintive tone that creeps into the second round of verbal assault, and the suppressed laugh that finally escapes in the closing line, all back up the boast Mayer makes at the outset: "This is probably the only time you'll ever hear a real translation of this poem."

Latin text and two translations on Perseus. More Mayer at PennSound. Her author page at EPC. Brief bio at

Monday -- 22 May 2006 -- permalink

The Lipstick of Noise is a product of the Third Factory • Inspired by the music blogs • And by Paul Blackburn's reel-to-reel deck. Intending to make good use of PENNSound and other sources of digital audio files of poetry • Comments welcomeXML.