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01 April 2014 @ 01:01 pm
LGBTQ Poetry Month I: Sappho  
It is April and thus one of the biannual poetry months! It is also a cruel month, wet and full of course essay as it is, but I shall do my best to keep up regular poetry.

This month will be dedicated to work by LGBTQ poets, in part to honour same-sex marriage becoming legal recently in my country of residence, while my country of birth remains frustratingly backward on the topic.

And who better to begin with than the woman who got a whole sexuality named after her address?

Sappho (trans. Richard Lattimore)

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen
on the black earth is an array of horsemen;
some, men marching; some would say ships; but I say
she whom one loves best

is the loveliest. Light were the work to make this
plain to all, since she, who surpassed in beauty
all mortality, Helen, once forsaking
her lordly husband,

fled away to Troy - land across the water.
Not the thought of child nor beloved parents
was remembered, after the Queen of Cyprus
won her at first sight.

Since young brides have hearts that can be persuaded
easily, light things, palpitant to passion
as am I, remembering Anaktória
who has gone from me

and whose lovely walk and the shining pallor
of her face I would rather see before my
eyes than Lydia's chariots in all their glory
armored for battle.

Sappho (born between 630-612 BC, died 570 BC) of the Isle of Lesbos was considered by the Alexandrians to be one of the nine great lyric poets. Little is known of her life beyond the fragments of her poetry, which document love for both men and women, that survive today (of which new ones have shown up!) Her contemporary Alcaeus described her as 'violet-haired, pure, honey-smiling Sappho'. It is thought that she taught a school for young women on Lesbos. Before the late 19th century, the word 'lesbian' referred to any derivative or aspect of Lesbos, including a type of wine.