Monday, February 03, 2014

After Hearing Two New Poems of Sappho Have Been Discovered

The assignment was to write an acrostically inspired poem, based loosely on another which was an assignment loosely based on a poem by Camille Dungy called, "Because it looked hotter that way" .  All week, I couldn't get the discovery of new Sappho poems out of my head, so, I wrote about that. What struck me most about the news were not her poems, but the articles about the poems and how they focused almost entirely on how these poems would help fill in the biographical gaps (about Sappho's brother, etc.).  And I thought, really?  We have re-discovered poems by one of the best poets who has ever lived and we are most excited about how they will tell us more about her history? 

Last night, I had the great honor of coaching two high school girls in the Poetry Out Loud county competition for Sonoma County.  It's a national program I've been participating in as a coach for the past four or five years.  And what I saw, what the whole audience experienced as the girls recited their poems, was not Emily Dickinson's secrets about her recluse life.  They weren't Theodore Roethke's dismal tales of his battle with depression.  They were universal threads of some lyric tapestry that we all share and feel.  Why on earth would we give a shit about biographical gaps when we could listen discover this?

So, here's my draft, which take's H.D.'s "Oread" as an acrostic base. 

After Hearing Two New Poems of Sappho Have Been Discovered

Rise up, text! After so many years sunk under the wine dark sea—ballasted by
the idea of a girl constructed of bone and flesh.  Rise up!  Conglomerate of
bedrock. Lava wound. Rock constructed of voice poured over voice. (Lava cools rock hard).
No one’s fault the centuries are thick and slurring their words. History is, after all,
a Wikipedia page featuring corporate edits—When the papyrus is found it has gone mute behind glass.  It  decorates a marble hallway.
Why is it that when the ballast gives way and the words rise like lost wooden ships, we search their rich dark hulls for biographical gaps? Why not, instead, climb those threadbare sails, feel the Sirrocos winds warm our skin and look out toward s glittering sea, we’d though we’d lost the language to breathe.

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