In the fourteenth century, a manuscript surfaced in Verona that had been lost for more than a thousand years: the poems of Catullus (c. 84–c. 54 BCE), considered by many to be one of the greatest poets who ever lived. These poems, with their beauty, wit, tenderness, and heartbreak, are still as alive and moving today as they were two thousand years ago.
They are dense, subtle, witty, ardent, fearless, deeply uncensored, nasty (sometimes), petty (sometimes), and always beautiful. It’s especially his love poems that have earned readers’ admiration over the centuries; the joy and the savage self-inflicted torments that he underwent in his “miserable, disastrous love affair” have been shaped into poems that for honesty and emotional power have few parallels in world literature.
Stephen Mitchell, who is known for bringing ancient texts to vibrant new life, has now translated Catullus’s poems for a new generation of readers. These are the first translations of Catullus to reimagine his rhythms in English and thus to let contemporary readers hear the formal beauty of his verse as well as its content, which Robert Lowell calls “much more raw and direct than anything in English.”
“What a dream combination, Stephen Mitchell and Catullus! I’ve always loved Catullus for his irreverence, his passion, his idiosyncratic voice, which echoes down the centuries. Now Mitchell has made him one of us, a contemporary poet whose verse unveils the human condition in all its madness and grace. Mitchell’s rare poetic gift shimmers through these translations.”—Jay Parini, author of New and Collected Poems, 1975–2015
"The genius of Stephen Mitchell in these new translations is to make a friend of Catullus — a new incarnation of this bad boy ancient Roman poet, for 'all those who are sensitive to beauty.'"—Daniel Halpern, author of Something Shining and founding publisher, Ecco