In the wake of modernism studies' global turn, this article considers the role of translation in fostering Iranian modernism. Focusing on the poetic translations of Bijan Elahi (1945-2010), one of Iran's most significant poet-translators, we demonstrate how untranslatability becomes a point of departure for his experimental poetics. Elahi used premodern Sufi hermeneutics to develop his modernist theory of translation, whereby the alien core of the text is recognised at the centre of the original. As he engages the translated text from many angles, Elahi confounds polarities between innovation and imitation, and authorship and translation, that continue to bifurcate translation studies. In contributing to the globalization of modernist studies, this work adds to our understanding of modernism's entanglement within premodern concepts of creation, as well as to modernism's recreation of tradition from a non-European periphery.