For the Classics in Translation I read Anne Carson’s If Not Winter a Translation of Sappho’s Poems and I highly recommend it. The Greek is On the left page, in startling red ink while Carson’s translation is on the right page in a calmer black ink. Brackets note the missing lines. It is a beautiful way to read these fragmented poems; the blank spaces fill you with wonder- what was the complete poem like? There was such intensity in the fragments!
spangled is the earth with her crowns
Her poems have a sense of pagan piety and duty and yet others were soft, lyrical, feminine with striking imagery:
“Evening you gather back
all that dazzling dawn has put asunder:
you gather a lamb, gather a kid,
gather a child to its mother.”
To read The Classics is to cross the chasm of time and even language, to experience the permanence of the written word; even an ancient author like Sappho feels close to us when we read. Thousands of years, the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution cannot change the human condition: love, hatred, pain, joy, suffering will always be a part of our lives.
Someone will remember us I say even in another time.
Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nos so smooth-nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to it end
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty , a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over-
I just finished reading Sing-Song to my girls. It’s a wonderful book of poetry by Christina Rossetti. We have the Dover edition which really is quite nice. However, I was surprised to see such a high price on amazon and began looking for other editions. Here are a few more I found :
This is a great little reader. In the front it has a very handy list of the 107 words used inside. The book itself contains famous little poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, some short stanzas from Tennyson and some famous nursery rhymes. I must admit having my daughter practice reading from this was a nice break from the Dr. Seuss and Frog and Toad readers. The Rhyme and meter seem to help beginners anticipate the next word, making their reading voice smoother and less labored. The selected verses are very accessible to small children, the illustrations are well matched. My only complaint was it’s brevity which is hardly a complaint at all.
Dogs & Dragons Trees & Dreams is currently out of print which is a pity. Karla Kuskin (Author of Roar and More) has complied some of her poems for children to create a great introduction to poetry. Throughout the book she gives quick synopses and talks a bit about poetry. Her commentary is informative, concise and easy to skip over if you just want the poetry to speak for itself. (She even gives you permission to ignore them.) In this book you’ll be happy to find funny poems, somber poems, romping poems, nature poems, narrative poems, descriptive poems, even counting poems.