Art Beck’s selection of Martial’s Epigrams brings vigor, immediacy and, above all, a timely music to these apparently simple and hence difficult to translate classics. These new translations, part of Beck’s much longer Martial project, affirm the poet/translator’s fine ear for contemporary cadences set some 2,000 years apart. The selection concludes with an “Afterthought,’” in fact the translator’s own verse epistle to his cousin, also a writer, in which Beck sets out a kind of ars poetica for his renderings of Martial.
Mea Roma, the 130 poem manuscript which includes the 21 epigrams in this chapbook, was one of two finalists awarded “honorable mention” in the 2018 American Literary Translators Association Cliff Becker Book Prize. The award came with the following citation:
Art Beck allows Martial to speak directly to the modern reader, artfully navigating the profound differences between contemporary English poetry and Latin poetry of the First Century C.E. Like Martial’s originals, Beck’s translations are funny, beautifully crafted, and, often, profoundly shocking to modern sensibilities.
A larger selection of Art Beck’s Martial translations is being published in October by Shearsman Books in England, under the title Mea Roma.
Art Beck has published several collections of poetry and poetry translations, most recently Luxorius Opera Omnia, a Duet for Sitar and Trombone, which was awarded the 2013 Northern California Book award for poetry in translation. He lives and works in San Francisco.