Of the nine books of lyrics the ancient Greek poet Sappho is said to have composed, only one poem has survived complete. The rest are fragments. In this miraculous new translation, acclaimed poet and classicist Anne Carson presents all of Sappho’s fragments, in Greek and in English, as if on the ragged scraps of papyrus that preserve them, inviting a thrill of discovery and conjecture that can be described only as electric—or, to use Sappho’s words, as “thin fire . . . racing under skin.” By combining the ancient mysteries of Sappho with the contemporary wizardry of one of our most fearless and original poets, If Not, Winter provides a tantalizing window onto the genius of a woman whose lyric power spans millennia.
if not, winter
]I bid you sing
of Gongyla, Abanthis, taking up
your lyre as (now again) longing
floats around you.
you beauty. For her dress when you saw it
stirred you. And I rejoice.
In fact she herself once blamed me
because I prayed
Eros shook my
mind like a mountain wind falling on oak treesFragment 52
I would not think to touch the sky with two arms
not one girl I think
who looks on the light of the sun
like thisFragment 147
someone will remember us
even in another timeFragment 162
with what eyes?
Excerpted from If Not, Winter by Sappho; Translated by Anne Carson. Copyright © 2002 by Anne Carson. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About Anne Carson
Anne Carson was twice a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; was honored with the 1996 Lannan Award and the 1997 Pushcart Prize, both for poetry; and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2000. In 2001 she received the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry–the first woman to do so; the Griffin Poetry Prize; and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She currently teaches at the University of Michigan.
“[Sappho’s] verse has been elevated to new heights in [this] gorgeous translation.” —The New York Times
“This Sappho is whispering in our ear in a language we can understand.” —Time Out New York
“Carson is in many ways [Sappho’s] ideal translator. . . . Her command of language is honed to a perfect edge and her approach to the text, respectful yet imaginative, results in verse that lets Sappho shine forth.” —Los Angeles Times
“A selfless, faithful, and boldly delicate achievement.” —Boston Review