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on 28 October 2009
The introduction is excellent covering the little that is known of Sappho's life, the incredible way the fragments of her poems survived (in documents used to stuff mummies, inscriptions on pottery and the like) and the historical context. It is a good read in its own right.

What works superbly well in the main text is the fact that the extensive and informative notes are on the facing page to the poems to which they refer. This is infinitely better than having them hidden at the back of the book, or squashed into footnotes. It makes it easy to choose how you read the poems (poem first then notes, notes then poem, ignore the notes altogether) and has a lot to recommend it.

The translations are at least OK, but not knowing Greek I don't feel confident to say more. Sappho was considered a pre-eminent poet by the Greeks and Romans, and was revered by Catullus and Horace; her reputation has endured over thousands of years. It is going to be hard to create a translation that begins to accurately reflect her originals. Including the original Greek would have been welcome (and feasible given the tiny amount of Sappho's verse that survives) but maybe that was thought to be too daunting and/or useless without a vocabulary to support it?
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on 28 October 2012
I think this is the best translation of Sappho that has been published in English during my life-time (born 1934). - English cannot, like Swedish, imitate metrically the Sapphic verse. Poochigian, however, invents other means of rendering Sappho, above all a faithful rendering of what is in the Greek original. Example from fragment 16: "Some call ships, infantry or horsemen/The greatest beauty earth can offer;/I say it is whatever a person/Most lusts after." His commentary on "lusts after" (eratai) is most convincing. erao means " to desire" not just " to love". It is also amazing what he can get out of a single Sappho line (page 86, fragment 147 Voigt): I declare/That later on,/Even in an age unlike our own,/Someone will remember who we are.". Particularly "Even in age unlike our own" is bold but makes sense to me, considering the few Greek letters that have been left to us on the papyrus.

The introduction is very good. Poochigian seems to master scholarship on Sappho, even into the smallest details. His evaluations show a good balance ( on difficult topics like "sexual fulfillment", "Sappho's'school", "archaic paideia" etc.).

The idea of having a separate commentary on every fragment on the opposing side of the translation functions also very well.

I wish though that he had chosen the Loeb volume by Campbell (good prose translations!) for the numbering of the poems instead of Voigt's edition which is not easily available.

You could call Poochigian's translations prose translations (like Campbell's) but, and this is an important but, they read more like real poetry.

Summa summarum: this slim Penguin volume is a veritable Glücksfund (a hermaion, to use Greek).

Lars Rydbeck
Oct 28the 2012
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on 11 July 2015
Hard to believe these heady poems were written over two thousand years ago!
A friend who studied Classics at Oxford and who reads things like this in the original recommended the Penguin edition of Sappho as the best version for English readers. The translation is a delight to read, with unforced rhymes and a real sense of the sensuality of life in Ancient Lesbos. The poems are a mix of ritual songs (mostly wedding hymns) and seemingly personal musings on the gods, various aspects of love & life. It's clear from them that apart from the emphasis she places on the pagan deities, life hasn't changed that much - jealousies, infatuations...all the things that concern us today.
She was clearly well read and references to Homer abound. She in turn came to be revered & quoted by later Greek & Roman writers, and the highly readable introduction and notes provide much information about this without getting bogged down.
Little of Sappho's writing has survived, so there are many instances of the fragments on the right-hand page being much shorter than the notes of the facing left-hand page.
Apparently these fragments have turned up in the unlikeliest locations, including being used as stuffing in a mummy case! Let's hope more are found - she was clearly a genius and it's one of the great tragedies of ancient literature that so much was lost over the centuries.
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on 3 April 2014
This is a slim volume but contains up-to date research and well annotated translations of Sappho's poetry. The author has managed to express the essential poetry of Sappho's fragments as well as guiding the reader through their meanings in context.
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on 25 April 2016
This is a thin book, and Sappho has too little of it, loomed over as she is by contextualising notes that make the book less browsable. Fewer than half the surviving fragments are translated. I find the rhyming and rhyme-ish translations twee.
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on 30 September 2015
Daughter delighted with this.
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on 5 September 2009
For students of Sappho, this is an excellent addition to studies already available. The author's analysis is lucid, and the anecdotal evidence offered is revealing and often entertaining. The inadequacies of the remaining fragments of Sappho's work are well compensated for by neat and mostly convincing improvisation. If this work has a fault it is in some of the arcane language used: why do so many academics/scholars find it necessary to seek to impress we mere mortal students (or is it competing academics they seek to dazzle?) with absurdly long and obscure words? There can never, ever be a substitute for direct and simple plain Eglish.
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on 11 November 2015
All OK
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