American Translators: Mary Barnard

December 18, 2020

By Nancy Kuhl

Mary Barnard

Mary Barnard was born in 1909 in Vancouver, Washington. In 1932, she graduated from Reed College in nearby Portland, Oregon, where she was introduced to the work of Ezra Pound. She began to correspond with him in 1933; most of their letters are now at the Beinecke Library.

With Pound’s encouragement, Barnard began translating Sappho’s poetry from Greek. Her translation, published in 1958, has never been out of print. Barnard’s own poems won her Poetry magazine’s Levinson Award when she was only twenty-six years old. The Beinecke’s collection of Mary Barnard’s work includes manuscripts and first editions of most of Barnard’s published work.The collection also includes audio and video cassettes, her travel diaries from time spent in Europe, letters from Ezra and Dorothy Pound, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams, and drafts of a translation of Homer’s Iliad. Some of the most interesting items in the collection are personal material: Barnard’s own diaries, newspaper clippings, yearbooks, and notebooks.

To learn more about the Beinecke’s Mary Barnard collection, search for “Mary Barnard” in the library’s Orbis Database. (Mary Barnard Papers Collection Guide)


I. Mary Barnard in Context

“Mt. Helicon,” working manuscript (includes descriptions of visits with Ezra Pound (beginning on page 84) (VIEW)
Call Number: YCAL MSS 524, Box 1, folder 1/3 (request)

II. Ezra Pound Letters to Mary Barnard

Letters from 1933-1950 (VIEW)
Among many documents, this PDF includes the following: Pound’s first postcard to MB, described in “Mt. Helicon,” p. 85 (no date); “If you’ve got greek…” (no date); “at yr tender age,” 22 Jan; “If you really learn to write” (no date); “a mild velleity toward writing” (no date); Pound on proper reading lists (no date); Pound on Barnard’s poetry, Feb 18;
travel plans, 14 Feb ( pp. 70-71); “If the concentration goes” (p. 80); Pound’s revision of Barnard’s Sappho (pp90-95); Instructions on guide to the Italian Frescos
Call Number: YCAL MSS 524, Box 12, 1933-1939, Ezra Pound


 Robert Fitzgerald | Langston Hughes

Ezra Pound |Louis Zukofsky | Dudley Fitts

The Practice of Literary Translation: Resources