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Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments of Sappho (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 6 Aug 2009
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About the Author
Sappho was born sometime between 630 and 617 BCE and died around 570. Little of certainty is known about her life. A native of the island of Lesbos, she resided in its largest city, Mytilene. She composed songs for choral and solo performance on a wide range of themes but is best known for amatory songs focusing on adolescent females. She is renowned as the first woman poet in literary history, and her songs have been universally admired throughout antiquity and modernity.
Aaron Poochigian was born in 1973. He earned his Phd in Classics in 2006. He was a visiting professor of Classics at the University of Utah in 2007-8 and is currently D.L. Jordon Fellow at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. His poems and translations have appeared in a number of journals, including Chimaera, Classical Journal and Unsplendid.
Carol Ann Duffy's poetry has received every major award in Britain, including the Whitbread and the Forward prized for Mean Time and the T.S. Eliot Award for Rapture. In the USA she has received the E.M. Forster and Lannan Awards. Carol Ann has also written extensively for children and has editied many anthologies.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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).
Oct 28the 2012
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?