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I’ve been reading “If Not, Winter,” Anne Carson’s translations of the extant fragments of Sappho—some of them very fragmentary indeed, like #180:


They remind me a little of the ultraminimal poems by Aram Saroyan that I like so much I made one of them into our front-door mat. I’m enjoying Carson’s explanations of the translations, too, especially fragment 146: “mete moi meli mite melissa,” which she renders as “neither for me honey nor the honey bee,” but notes “Other translations occur to me, e.g.:

mellowsmelling honey
yellowstinging bee
honey, Honey?
no not me”

And I appreciate the concision of “A Note About the Translator,” which reads, in its entirety, “Anne Carson lives in Canada.”

But the fragments that intrigue me most are probably the ones that are, perhaps, a quarter or a half there—at least part of every line missing, some lines missing altogether, evoking the missing bits but leaving them mysterious. Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I was imagining recording musical settings for Sappho’s fragments, mixed as dub—vocals fading in and out where her fragments start and end, and the other instruments vanishing as much of the time. Then I realized that what I was imagining was essentially something that, appropriately enough, the Homosexuals had already done with “Hearts in Exile.” Except without the Sappho part. Which I’d still want to do, just so I could hear it.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on January 18, 2008 11:11 PM.

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