cirque: (princess)
[personal profile] cirque
"Sappho rejoined:… 'thou would'st have spoken of what is right'."
Aristotle, Rhetoric - trans. J. H. Freese.

In light of the wonderful posts we've had here this week, I'd like to wrap things up by taking a deeper look at Sappho herself. She was a lyrical poet, yes, adored by the likes of Plato and his ilk, but she was also a woman. She went through petty family drama, and was the subject of an Ancient penis joke. She was as real as you or I and yet, despite history taking literal bites out of her work, she has persevered to the point that we have devoted a week to her here. That speaks volume. Sappho, you go girl.

"someone will remember us
I say, even in another time"

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho - Anne Carson.

In order to understand the art we must first understand the artist, and the world in which they lived, and so I propose examining Fragment 16 within a historical framework, so that we might better place ourselves in Sappho's shoes (or, um, her sandals).

Sappho and contemporary politics: Greece versus The World )

Sappho and Love; Sappho versus History )
kaberett: a patch of sunlight on the carpet, shaped like a slightly wonky heart (light hearted)
[personal profile] kaberett
... the most beautiful thing/on the black earth, wrote Sappho, two and a half thousand years ago.

It was twelve and a half million years ago (this, you see, is why I'm a little inexact: what are a few years between friends?) that Lesbos (or Lesvos) was last volcanically active. And yet: and yet. The Aegean has its volcanoes today, that still bring forth fire and brimstone, but they're a long way south, this being the way of subduction zones and time.

The black earth: it suggests richness, perhaps; dampness. But to me, it also suggests volcanic ash, worried and weathered into fertility.

It is not, you understand, that I intend to provide a close geological reading of this fragment: I am given little else to go on, after all. But I wanted to suggest to you that Sappho's choices, here, said not only fertility, but also home.

What I'm really here to do is to give you a necessarily brief overview of what has grown in that soil, through the gulfs of time and silence between us.

(There is - are - also Michael Field, the pen name adopted by a lesbian couple who lived from around 1850 to the beginning of the First World War. The main bulk of their work, prior to 1906, had among its influences the traces of Sappho, as she was understood by Victorians.)

Borges wrote that every writer makes their own precursors: that a work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future. I cannot, I'm afraid, tell you much about Sappho's precursors - but I can tell you who I see looking back at me from the shards of fragment 16.

Read more... )
alexconall: the Pleiades (Default)
[personal profile] alexconall
I owe [personal profile] jjhunter a lot for how this poem turned out in the end. My initial idea for remixing Sappho Fragment 16 was to translate (more in the sense of 'moving sideways' than in the sense involving multiple languages) the concepts into a poetic form to which English is better suited. In a way, that's what I did in the end. The images of armies and Helen are Sappho's, but Sappho was writing about her conception of beauty, speaking as a queer woman of Lesbos millennia ago, and I am here writing of mine, speaking as a queer woman of today's USA.

The meter is not Sapphic, more's the pity, but, uh, Wiki 'Sapphic stanza' and scroll down to the poems by Lee and Tranter. Someday I'll write a true Sapphic poem in English; this is not that day. Anyway, English iambic pentameter is eminently suited to describing beauty, as any student of Shakespeare knows.

I present:

Anaktoria )
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
[personal profile] luzula
I was asked by [personal profile] jjhunter if I wanted to chant/sing this piece, and I was happy to take on the challenge, and was really inspired by the poem! I know very little about ancient Greek poetry and music, and I didn't even know that it was originally meant to be chanted/sung with lyre accompaniment. So the music here is straight from my own head. Er, I guess the recording is a bit rough--I've had a cold and am not quite recovered. Okay, enough excuses. The text is here, for reference, and here's my recording:

Alternative link in case the Soundcloud streaming doesn't work: click through for streaming.

About the song and about my process )
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
Posted on behalf of [personal profile] rainjoy. Anne Carson translation of Fragment 16 can be read here.
===

Forgive my intrusion, as someone who is not a poet, nor a classicist, nor even for more than ten years any official student of literature - I'm a philosopher who doesn't know when not to dabble, but I do soothe my conscience for my constant interfering in art by being an aesthetician by trade; I might in my daily life deal mostly in very abstract concepts, but what they relate to in the end is this poem in front of us, and what it does to us, and what it does to me every single time. So I'll try to keep this fairly brief and on point, and what I'm going to talk about here is mostly context for the poem, because there are a few things to take into account which really do matter and I always want to grab people tight and *make them understand this* because I *want* them to love the poem the way that I do. And I do love it, painfully so.

Always remember the act of translation, and the translator's choices; always remember the conception of beauty in the poem, and the poet's choices; and always remember the sheer state of the poem as it survives, because the 'test of time' is a lie. What survives for two thousand years is a matter of luck as much as taste, a matter of how useful scholars across history thought the Greek in that passage was for teaching Greek grammar, a matter of whim and fire and forgetfulness and creeping damp. The fact that we have what we have of the poem is a gift, an accident, a fluke, a blessing. And as for the missing pieces, when it comes to it, after more than two thousand years, even Sappho's silence sings.

So. There is a reason that when it comes to Sappho I stick my fingers in my ears and make furious noise if anyone besides Anne Carson attempts to translate her. )

The fact that this is an ancient Greek poem matters, because Sappho's conception of beauty is downright subversive to some classical minds. )
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
"Of the nine books of lyrics that Sappho is said to have composed, one poem has survived complete. All the rest are fragments."

"Hellenistic poets called her 'the tenth Muse' or 'the mortal Muse'"

    - 'Introduction', If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho - Anne Carson.
---

Our central text for this week comes to us from more than two thousand five hundred years in the past. Sappho's original poem would have been lyric in the oldest sense of the word: intended for singing or chanting with musical lyre accompaniment. That the words, if not the music, were transcribed and treasured is testament both to their power and to how highly Sappho was regarded by her contemporaries and later generations. Centuries after her death, the Library of Alexandria staff collected every surviving poem of hers into nine papyrus scroll books, and listed Sappho as one of the nine ancient Greek 'lyric poets' most worthy of close study. In other words, Sappho was regularly listed in the ancient 'top ten nine' in her chosen art - no easy feat for any poet working in that tradition, let alone a female one.

The Library of Alexandria burned. Julius Caesar set fire to it; Emperor Aurelian burnt the entire city quarter to the ground; its daughter library in the Serapeum was destroyed, possibly by Pope Theophilus; no one knows for sure if there was a library left to burn by the time commander Amr ibn Al-Asi came conquering. The wonder is not that there is only one whole poem of Sappho's left; the wonder is that there are any fragments left at all, and that we can still find meaning in them after such millennia.

This week, we will explore Fragment 16 primarily in translation, re-examining it in light of its cultural and historical contexts, reimagining it as set to music, remixing it into new poetry, and revisiting more generally how we make sense of gaps in our record & our understanding of the past.


Monday: [personal profile] rainjoy: Greek Conceptions of Beauty, and Other Notes on Translation

Tuesday: [personal profile] luzula: Sappho's 16th fragment set to music

Wednesday: [personal profile] poetree_admin: ['free space of imaginal adventure' in honor of missing matter]

Thursday: [personal profile] alexconall: advancing Sappho into the English-speaking modern day [remix poem]

Friday: [personal profile] kaberett: Ringing steel, or, resonance

Saturday: [personal profile] cirque: Small Miracles

---
Last edited 9/21/13 by jjhunter
poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
POETREE @ Dreamwidth: Fragments of Sappho: September 16th - 21st

Exploring fragment 16 in depth, in translation and (re)imagination. Sign up now to participate, September 16th - 21st @ [community profile] poetree.


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poetree_admin: Paper sculpture of bulbuous tree made from strips of book pages (Default)
[personal profile] poetree_admin
Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
on the black earth. But I say it is
          what you love.

For our next community themed week, we are returning to the theme of 'one poem in depth' with fragment 16 of the known works of Sappho. You can read Anne Carson's English translation of 16 here at our sister comm [community profile] poetry; original greek available via wikipedia.

Ideally we will have one post each day from Monday, Sept. 16th through Saturday, Sept. 21st, that enhances, changes, or challenges how a reader might approach reading the known text, in the original or translation. One might sign up to provide an overview of the poem's historical context and offer references for further reading; to translate the poem anew (literal, as in translating from one language to another, or metaphorical, as in 'translating' from the medium of written text to a different medium such as audio performance or visual art); to write a new poem that remixes or responds to the original; or do something else that fits the week's overall theme.

If you are interested in participating, please leave a comment on this post indicating what day(s) you might be available & what type of content (e.g. literal translation, remix poem, historical context, etc.) you think you'd like to post. Assignment of days will be on a first come, first served basis; this post will be edited as slots fill up to show which days are still available. Participation is not limited to current comm members or even Dreamwidth members - please contact the admins at poetree.at.dreamwidth [at] gmail if you will need someone to post on your behalf. More than one person can collaborate on a particular post if some wish to sign up as a group. Finally, we strongly recommend preparing your content in advance of Monday, Sept. 16th; the admins are available for brainstorming and beta support over the weekend on request.


Available days behind the cut )

Last edited 9/16/13 by jjhunter

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