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« Good Morning! How about a Quickie Before Work? by Jenny Factor | Main | Good Night, Good Night--! Parting is Such Sweet . . . by Jenny Factor »

February 13, 2008


Hey Jenny!

It's wonderful to hear a little piece of your life! I've never thought of each poem I write as a sex act, but I am in love with poetry even more now that you mention it.

-Miss Tobey

"Transgressive love has to unmake the world a little before it gets on with loving. All other love only has to knock over the Self.
So Sappho (who existed in the day when Hera could still order Zeus around) was the first non-transgressive lesbian erotic poet because there's not an iota of shame in her. Take a look at this fragmentary sample..."

Yes, but--for whom was Sappho writing? Herself, her lover/beloved? In which case, the idea of apology or shame or identity consciousness or politics wouldn't really enter (or be near as likely to enter) into it, would it? How often are we writing in such deliriously pure circumstances?

Good post. Thanks.

Emily: wonderful comments. Thanks for reading along! As for audience, Eloise Klein Healy had explained that Sappho was widely known and admired in her day. Her poem-fragments--like the one I posted--were in fact found on multiple pieces of papyrus parchment that had been used as fish wrappers. Imagine the way one might get one's groceries wrapped up in old newspapers or playbills--in some commonly found, commonly held item--well that's what these poems were.

Intellectuals of the day waited for each installment eagerly. And evidence indicates that each poem was performed publicly--a group of girls sung and danced to them while someone played a lyre.

So--I guess what I'm saying is that this IS a public expression, however private it may seem.

Emily, don't you have an interesting blog of your own?


Thank you, Jenny--thank you, I (embarrassingly) didn't know any of that. But what I still find interesting is that it was Sappho's audience that made--or the audience was a key player in making--the poems non-transgressive and free of shame--right? The poems were apolitical because of the culture she lived in...whereas now--okay, not a poem, but take the example of the hugely-&-widely banned 2006 children's picture book "And Tango Makes Three"--the true story of two male penguins who formed a family and raised a baby penguin together--the book didn't really get to choose to be non-transgressive--it's all rendered entirely innocently, sweetly, just a story about some penguins, but has been accused of promoting damned lifestyles, etc. So would it be that Sappho was non-transgressive, or that Sappho's audience rendered transgression unnecessary, a moot point? That she could write clearly, purely, without an audience's suspicion...that if she were to write the exact same poems now (or, well, sometime other than when she did), they would be branded transgressive? Is it (more important) that there is no an shame in her work, or that there was no shame in her audience? And that "not an iota of shame" might today be read as "shameless"?

(I have the feeling that this might actually be what you were saying the whole time [grin], and I just read dopily)

Thanks again, glad for your post.

What a delight to read your blog. Among the many things I enjoyed about it is the reference to Rilke's famous poem in your title. Like Rilke's archaic torso of Apollo, Sappho, too, lingers and shines through the millennia, inspiring lyric poets and countless others to change their lives.

Many thanks for the pleasure of your writing!

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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