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The Sealey Challenge Day 15: "Sappho: A New Translation" translated by Mary Barnard

I love Sappho for her poetics and her lyricism--or I thought I did. There is lyricism in this translation but there is also a no-nonsense force to the poems. It feels less like Sappho singing of love or of the gods and instead speaking elegantly but plainly and without room for misinterpretation. This is the tone of course. Translation is difficult when the full manuscript is present let alone when we have fragments. The choices and liberties that the translator must take are vast. A single word might mean five or more things and which to convey and have the other meanings echo is a huge/dramatic issue.

Here, Barnard creates the Sappho persona as strong and less gooey and sing-songy as other translations. Does this invalidate the others? No. But this version might appeal to today's audience. We are ready to be told emotions straight on. We are willing to be captured by a fragment and meditate with it. I did not read in entirety--but I plan to. I find this tone opposite to many of my favorites but there is room for all translations.


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