Lorem Ipsum

Houghton Library, Harvard University. 2003J-JB128.

Ovid’s Heroides

by J. Kates
November 3, 2017

One of the least remarked and most remarkable qualities of Ovid’s writing is the attention he paid to women. As Philip Freeman has written in an introduction to the Greek poet Sappho,

Almost everything written in...

Down and Dirty: Translations of Catullus

by J. Kates
August 11, 2017

Once upon a time in a state far, far away—Indiana—a gentleman named Norman Taylor waxed indignant. “I happened to come across one of the books sold in a book store, 308 State St., for use in Purdue University classes,” he wrote to the...

Through the Ivory Gate

by J. Kates
January 10, 2017

Seamus Heaney introduced his translation of Beowulf with these words: "When I was an undergraduate at Queen's University, Belfast, I studied Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poems and developed not only a feel for the...

Getting Horace Across

by J. Kates
March 1, 2016

When curmudgeons want to argue the intractability of poetry to translation, one of the first names they pull out of the hat is that of Quintus Horatius Flaccus. It is generally acknowledged that his poetry is about as untranslatable as...

Martial Music

by J. Kates
January 19, 2016

Ezra Pound wrote epigrams. William Carlos Williams wrote epigrams. e. e. cummings wrote epigrams. Margaret Atwood writes epigrams. Even so, if you browse anthologies and literary journals, it seems as though the genre of the epigram has...

Livy Alive

by J. Kates
July 8, 2015

I wasn’t quite bored. I had just completed a fourth-year Latin final with plenty of extra time and now was trapped in the classroom until the allotted hour expired. I looked at my blue book. The last exercise in it was a translation of...

Mary Beard, Confronting the Classics

The Glory that was Greece, the Grandeur that was Rome

by J. Kates
April 7, 2014

“The Antients may be considered as a rich Common, where every person who hath the smallest Tenement in Parnassus hath a free Right to fatten his Muse.”
                                                 —Henry Fielding, Tom Jones,...

The Golden Ass translated by Sarah Ruden

Apuleius Translated

by J. Kates
December 17, 2013

I’ve been looking at asses. More specifically, I have been weighing Sarah Ruden’s 2011 translation of The Golden Ass of Apuleius against the one I grew up with and have been sitting on all my life, Robert Graves’s 1951 version...


Culled and Not Culled, the Poet Will Be There

by J. Kates
August 19, 2013

I ask the reader to join me in an excursion of otsoggery [1] that begins in a steamy Japanese dystopia and ends in a suburb of Zürich, having at its center one of the great Latin...

Publius Ovidius Naso

Black Sea Salt

by J. Kates
June 4, 2013

Publius Ovidius Naso invented exile the way Charles Dickens invented Christmas. Of course, the institution was there before, but it had not been given a definitive literary and cultural codification, a reference point for all subsequent...

Caesar's Gallic War

The Divisions of Gaul

by J. Kates
February 8, 2012

There was a time when every schoolboy knew his second-year Latin class would teach him Julius Caesar’s Gallic War. In first-year Latin, farmers and sailors and soldiers predominated. The linguistic accident that the Latin words...

Nox by Anne Carson

Catullus by Night: Anne Carson’s Nox

by J. Kates
July 23, 2011

A town crier proclaimed the Valerian funeral. Musicians, torchbearers, hired mourners and dancing clowns preceded the body through the streets. Masks and images representing his entire gens, the family line of illustrious...