I took no offense that this British author and blogger claims Poochigian sounds “like a superhero poodle.” And I was proud that someone who is “not normally a poetry guy” would write: “it’s nice to find some poetry I actually quite enjoy. Like I said, we’ve lost a lot of Sappho, and if what we’ve got left of her is any indication, it’s a pretty tragic loss.”
Here's a link to the post I include below: http://iansbookpile.wordpress.com/tag/sappho/
It’s pretty cool to see that something written two and a half thousand years ago can still resonate with people today. This version of Sappho of Lesbos is a relatively new translation by Aaron Poochigian, whose name I in no way sniggered at for sounding like a superhero poodle, because I am mature. Gathering together as much as possible from what we have left of Sappho, you have to admire a collection that brings together so many fragments and pieces and manages to reconstruct such a renowned talent.
Also, the lesbians.
There’s not a whole heap of Sappho left to the world – supposedly there were nine books worth of verse compiled in the Alexandrian library, and now so much of it has been lost to history that we’ve only got one poem in it’s entirety, and a couple that are almost complete, but for a few sections. The stuff we’ve got left, however, is pretty damn good. There are some tributes to goddesses, hymns to marriages, verses on love requited and unrequited and little pictures of life amongst the girls of her time.
Also, the lesbians.
Yes. Right. So. The main things people can remember about Sappho are 1) Poet. 2) From Lesbos. 3) Why we call lesbians lesbians and have the word sapphic. Now, to be fair, some academics have said that Sappho’s attraction to the girls she addresses in a lot of these poems is debatable in canonicity. And, to be fair, no, dude; she’s totally gay for those girls. Most of the poems in this collection are about just that – one of her most famous pieces is about seeing someone chat up a girl she likes, and the furious liquid jealousy that flows through her body at the sight of it. Other poems follow the same theme: she seethes at the idea that some uncultured farm girl could have charmed the object of her affection; she remembers the innocent gracelessness of a girl in her youth and how much she loved it; she wistfully recalls gathering flowers with a former lover, who garlanded her hair and then took Sappho to bed. All of these showcase a series of well-crafted, eloquent and elegant lady-boners. It’s not graphic, just sweet, and oh-so-very familiar to anyone who’s ever felt the searing ache of unrequited longing.
There are other subjects covered as well, and you have to admire the beauty of the translation here. Poochigian specifically says he wanted to “set a proper tone and give due weight to every precious word” with his translation, and he does a great job. Since Sappho, we presume, would have originally performed each poem to an audience instead of writing them down, the English versions makes sure that they do their best work when spoken aloud – though that does get you odd looks from everyone else on the bus. You can take your time with the poems, going through them word by word, letting each one weigh on you and enjoying the way it sounds on your tongue. They just feel fun to say, really.
I’m not normally a poetry guy – too many years of having World War One poets shoved down my throat at school rather soured me on the whole thing (yes, Wilfred Owen, the war is grim. I get it. Yes, Ms. Sheldon, Dulce et Decorum est is a grim poem. I get it. YOU’VE READ US THIS POEM IN ASSEMBLY THREE YEARS IN A ROW, MS. SHELDON. I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT). So it’s nice to find some poetry I actually quite enjoy. Like I said, we’ve lost a lot of Sappho, and if what we’ve got left of her is any indication, it’s a pretty tragic loss – six hundred years after her lifetime, Roman poets were still praising her work and stealing her ideas. As recently as 2005, new fragments of her work are being brought out into the world, confused and blinking in the sunlight. I would love to think there’s still some more of her out there, undiscovered, and that we might get to see a little more of this woman’s talent be held up for recognition.